Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Do You Expect From A Country That Doesn't Legislate Maternity Leave?

American women must pay full-price for breast pumps.

But nursing mothers will not be allowed to use their tax-sheltered health care accounts to pay for breast pumps and other supplies.

That is because the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that breast-feeding does not have enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care.

In some respects, the biggest roadblock for mothers’ groups and advocates of breast-feeding is one of their central arguments: nursing a child is beneficial because it is natural.

In all honesty, I'm amazed that breastfeeding (nursing) babies is as common as it is in the United States, because there is no mandatory maternity leave, paid or not.  Some employers do offer maternity leave, but it's not a legal requirement.  Israel now gives fourteen weeks to new mothers, so they can stay home with their babies, breastfeed them and physically and emotionally recover.  My daughter told me that she gets full salary and the right to extend it according to how long she has been working at the same place.

Compare this to the "good deal" my friend's American daughter gets where she teaches, six weeks of half-salary and no extension option.  Apparently, this is considered an unusually pro-birth place of work.

What do American women do?  How do they manage?  How long do women take off after giving birth?

I know that many European countries give maternity leave packages which are even better than Israel's.

The lobbyist shouldn't stress the "natural;" they should have just stressed all the health advantages.


Anonymous said...

I know that many European countries give maternity leave packages which are even better than Israel's.
The EU latest recommendation is 20 weeks (split before and after maternity). It is 16 in France but apparently some countries get even more than the recommended 20 weeks.

Batya said...

My daughter usually stays home for close to six months, though this time, she'll probably have to do some work a few hours a week, because she's the top lawyer where she works. But they'll let her take the baby and do things from home.

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

I'm happy with what we've got here... employers must hold your job for a full year, and you receive a reduced salary paid by Employment Insurance (I think most people get 55%).

(assuming you've worked a minimum number of weeks before giving birth)

Yay for the Europe of North America!

Batya said...

That's very good and helpful.

Phyllis Sommer said...

I'm so lucky to have 3 months paid maternity leave. But I'm one of the few people who have such a nice benefit. I am extremely jealous of Canadians and Europeans who get amazing maternity benefits that are so beneficial to families. Seriously, sometimes I think I live in the most backward country.

Family Health Benefits said...

In the U.S. the majority of women get no maternity leave pay at all. Five states have mandatory short term disability which provides partial income replacement for six weeks. There is 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave - but it does not apply to every worker.

The only maternity pay option for most women is to purchase a private short term disability plan before getting pregnant.

Batya said...

Phyllis, I'm glad they take good care of you. Is that the general contract with the congregations or is this special for you?

FHB, thanks for the info

Rivster said...

My situation is similar to Phyllis'. I am so blessed to be in a profession (the rabbinate) that provides me 3 months paid leave. But returning as a nursing mom is tough. I had no idea that breast pumps were subsidized in other parts of the world. What a great way to support nursing moms and their nurslings!

Batya said...

Thanks for sharing. Can you bring the baby during the week? I'm sure your work hours can be very hard.

Hadassa said...

One of my sisters in America received four, that's right four (4!), months of maternity leave. I'm not sure how much of it was paid, and that was probably mostly vacation time, but still, that's one heck of an employer! She'd been working at the same company for many years so I'm sure that helped, and she's in North Carolina. I may be wrong, but I imagine that many of the states in the more southern region are more family-friendly when it comes to employment benefits.
Does anyone know if La Leche Leagues in America are a good source of assistance for breast pumps and the like?

Batya said...

I don't know what they do. I only used the pumps when my youngest was in the hospital (for six weeks.) I'd pump milk so I could go home and see the older ones.