Maternity Leave: How Effective Are the Strategies Pursued by Organizations?
The mother’s bond with the newborn is effected over the first few weeks that the child is alive and this bond plays a significant role in the development of the child over the course of time. As society is always dependent upon well developed persons for the sake of its own future, the benefits of maternity leave can easily be premised upon this point.
Yet, for many parents, the birth or adoption of a child means stretched finances and concern for care of their child when they must return to work. The fundamental shifts in family and work patterns over the past several decades have brought the demand for time off to address family needs to the national spotlight. As a result of shifting gender roles, diverse family structures, and economic need, the concept of a “traditional family” (two parents, one employed) has been replaced by dual-earning couples and single parent households (National Partnership for Women & Families, 2012). Theworkforce in America has changed. Women’s wages are critical to a family’s financial security. “Women are now the primary or co-breadwinners in more than six out of 10 households, and nearly 40 percent are the main or sole breadwinner.” There is much progress to be made at a national level to support the new reality of the American workforce, as the United States is one of very few countries that does not guarantee any paid leave. During President Obama's second term as President, he proposed legislation that would provide federal employees with six weeks of paid administrative leave for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. When he announced his proposal during a State of the Union address, he said, “It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue or a women’s issue." In fact, a parental leave policy should be flexible, gender-neutral, and counteract unconscious bias. Parents should feel supported, regardless of their gender, to build successful careers and nurture their families (Miller, C., 2015).
Most of the changes we propose can be implemented without significant cost. A key point of departure is to reflect on the corporate culture around parental leave and to educate managers about how they can best work with returning mothers to ensure a smooth transition, with a focus on open conversations around their preferences.
National Partnership for Women & Families, “Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws that Help New Parents.” Second Edition, May 2012
United States Department of Labor, DOL Policy Brief: Why Parental Leave for Fathers is So Important for Working Families. June 2015.
Miller, C. “The Economic Benefits of Paid Parental Leave”. The New York Times. Jan 30, 2015.