Does the US Law Provide for Paid Parental Leave?

Federal law in the United States does not provide for paid parental leave after the birth of a child, and the US is one of the few developed countries that do not. In addition to the US, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea do not offer paid parental leave. As of 2013, a little more than 11% of US employers voluntarily offered paid family leave to its employees. US law does include the Family Leave Medical Act, which allows time off for parents after the birth of a child, but it does not have to be paid time off, and not all employers are required to offer it.

More about family leave:

  • Even in countries with paid family leave, it often is not at full pay, and there might be limitations for how often it can be taken. For example, in Zimbabwe, Barbados, Egypt and Jamaica, women are allowed only three maternity leaves for the duration of their working lives.

  • The law in Sweden allows for the most paid family leave, at a total of 16 months per child for both parents combined.

  • In 2004, California became the first US state to pass a law that requires paid parental leave.
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Discussion Comments


This is something of a dichotomy.

As a new mother (or father), having paid time off to care for a newborn sure is sweet. However, there are a lot of small companies that just cannot afford to pay employees when they are not productive, meaning making money for the company.

Can you imagine a young family having four children spaced at 14-16 months apart? In Sweden, they would pay the mother full time for staying at home caring for her children until the last one turned 16 months old.

Also, even if the leave is unpaid leave, guaranteeing that job position to the maternity leave person could put a hardship on the small employer as well. Example: if the person taking the maternity leave is a key person, that person's position must be filled while that person is on leave. So, what happens to the person who filled that position during the original employee's maternity leave?

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