The US is currently the only industrialized nation in the world to not have paid parental leave.
We lag behind the majority of the nearly 200 countries in the United Nations, save for New Guinea, Suriname, and several islands in the South-Pacific. Typically countries in the United Nations provide at least four months of parental leave in addition to compensation; “at least 50” do so for six months or more. Below, a look into the most well-developed paid parental leave policies worldwide, and a hope for U.S. workspaces to treat our parents better.
India is the latest nation to increase their maternal leave policy, which applies to all companies countrywide. The policy went from providing only three months paid maternal leave, one month under the recommended number from the UN, to providing a full six months of paid maternal leave. This helps rank India as a country with the sixth longest paid maternity leave in the world. Unfortunately, however, this policy does not extend to self-employed workers or women who work from home, which make up a large part of India’s workforce.
The UK currently holds the title for the country with the longest paid maternity leave among highly industrialized countries. Their maternity leave spans a total of 52 weeks, and is split in two time slots; the first 26 weeks, which are known as ordinary maternity leave, and the next 26 weeks, which are referred to as additional maternity leave. Mothers are not required to stay off work for the full 52 weeks, but they are mandated to stay home from work for at least two weeks after the birth of their child. Mothers on maternity leave are paid about 90% of their average weekly pay for the entirety of their leave. Some parents in the UK are also eligible for a policy called the Shared Parental Leave and Pay, which both parents of the child can qualify for.
Bulgaria may be a fairly small, poor country in Eastern Europe, but it has not stopped them from having one of the most impressive paid maternal leave policies. Bulgarian mothers are given almost 59 weeks off after childbirth, at 90% of their total salary. Once this period is up, mothers can choose to take another full year off, while receiving the country’s (relatively low) minimum wage. The Bulgarian maternal leave policy is unique in that it can be passed to the father or grandfather of the child if the mother wishes to return to work early, but still wants a familial caregiver to provide for the child at home.
Greece also offers mothers a fairly long maternal leave policy with 43 weeks of paid leave. However, compensation for mothers on leave has dropped drastically as the Greek minimum wage continues to dip due to economic difficulties. Maternal leave compensation reaches slightly over 50% of average salary in the country.
Clearly, the U.S. has a considerable amount of work to do if they would like to keep up with any of the countries above in regards to paid parental leave. There is currently talk of a mandated six-week maternity leave policy, which is allegedly being encouraged by First Daughter Ivanka Trump. Even if this policy were to pass, the U.S. would still be far behind the above countries.