Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Why unpaid maternity leave isn’t enough

When it comes to paid maternity leave, the United States is in the postpartum dark ages.

One hundred and seventy-seven nations — including Djibouti, Haiti and Afghanistan — have laws on the books requiring that all women, and in some cases men, receive both income and job-protected time off after the birth of a child. But here, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides only unpaid leave, and most working mothers don’t get to stay home with their newborns for the 12 weeks allowed by the law. Many aren’t covered by the FMLA; others can’t afford to take unpaid time off. Some go back to work a few weeks after giving birth, and some go back after mere days.

The century-long battle for maternity leave in America is a story of missed opportunities and historical accidents, further slowed by activists’ miscalculations and some well-funded opposition. In other words: It didn’t have to be this way.

Read more in the Washington Post

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