Universal paid maternity leave in the US: What would it cost?

May 26, 2012. Posted in: Blog Posts

There’s been a lot of discussion about paid maternity leave in the US.
According to Save the Children’s 2012 State of the World’s Mothers Report:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/76266195@N08/

Image credit: Jerry Bunkers on flickr

“Perhaps the most effective way to improve breastfeeding rates is to provide longer periods of paid maternity leave. Countries with generous maternity and parental leave policies – such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden – tend to have high breastfeeding rates… Apart from the United States, all developed countries now have laws mandating some form of paid compensation for women after giving birth.”

As part of having an informed discussion, an idea of the costs should be included since part of implementing universal maternity leave includes collecting the money. I tried to find an estimate of the cost online, and was unsuccessful. Therefore, I’m putting together my own estimate. This is not to advocate for or against the proposal, but it seems worthwhile to add the cost and method of funding to the discussion.

To get a rough cost, let’s make some assumptions about the program. I’m not suggesting that this is the way that universal maternity leave should be handled – this is just meant to keep the calculations very simple (look at the end of this article to see some different options).  If someone has a more in-depth estimate, let me know about it!

Assumptions:

  1. Pay new mothers 75% of the median income for women for one year after birth.
  2. Pay ALL mothers, regardless of their work history.

Paid Maternity Leave in Developed Countries - 2012

Some of the Unknowns:

  1. How many women postpone children because they need to work? If a new mother will be financially supported for one year, will that increase the birth rate, and increase the costs of this program?
  2. Will there be any corresponding savings, such as those associated with increased breastfeeding rates decreasing medical costs?
  3. How much room is there for cost savings by putting a cap on eligibility by household income, requiring the mother to have worked a certain number of hours to qualify, etc.?

Continuing to keep it simple, we’ll assume that the unknown costs and savings cancel each other out.

Let’s run some numbers (all for the United States):

Using the latest data available from the US government…

Women’s median earnings: $669/week = $34,788 per year. 
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2010.pdf

If new mothers are paid 75% of median income, that is $26,091 paid maternity leave per year per birth.

Number of births per year: 4,316,000. 
Source: US Census. http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/11statab/vitstat.pdf

The total annual maternity leave for all births (paid maternity leave per year per birth times number of births per year): $112,608,800,000.

If we assume, similar to Social Security, administrative costs are minimal (less than 1%), we can say $113 billion per year is the rough cost of this program.

Now let’s figure out what that number means in relation to the workforce.

There are about 142 million people employed in the US. 
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf.

Dividing $113 billion by 142 million workers means the cost is $796 per worker per year.

If we treat paid maternity leave similar to unemployment insurance and social security, then, based on our simplified estimate,  $796 per worker per year (or $66 per month) will pay for it.

 

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Don’t like the assumptions above? Using the same data, if we pay all new mothers 50% of the median income for women for 6 months, our simplified estimate gives a cost of $267 per worker per year (or $22 per month).

If we include only the employed mothers (55.8% of mothers with babies under a year old are in the workforce – Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics) and again give them 50% of the median income for women for 6 months, our simplified estimate gives us a cost of $149 per worker per year (or $12 per month).

—————————————————–

So here are the questions:

Is this something that should be done?
If so, is a payroll tax or fee (similar to Social Security or Unemployment) the way to fund it?

 

For commenters: Keep the discussion civil, remember your manners, and stay on topic! If you’re unsure of the house rules, the Commenting Guidelines are here.

Tracy May 27, 2012 at 12:16 am

I will say that your $26K is higher than most women get in Canada so you could do a system that seems to work for cheaper.  We get 55% up to a max of around $2200 per month (many don’t reach that) and then companies can top up if they so choose.  I need to look up these numbers for a letter I’m working on, but it seems that it’s doable.  Oh – in Canada it’s under our Unemployment.

Tracy May 27, 2012 at 12:26 am

 I should update this.  Apparently we do go higher in amount paid out, but I can’t find the exact number. 

Brenda Tutor July 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I get the maximum, and it’s $872 every 2 weeks.  

Tracy May 27, 2012 at 12:54 am

 Sorry to take up your boards here!  I’ve been doing my research.  Canada’s system costs our EI $3 billion per year.  The US has 10x the population we do and approximately 10x the number of births (slightly more, so we can even assume 11x).  This should suggest that if the US simply adopted the Canadian plan, it should cost approximately $33 billion.  Given the known effects of mat leave on breastfeeding rates, the US could save approximately $10 billion alone if they can get their breastfeeding rates up to 80% exclusive at six months.  Now, even Canada isn’t at that so it’s just one piece, but there’s savings there and the cost to workers would be far less than you imagined!

kellymom May 28, 2012 at 12:06 am

 Thanks for the info, Tracy! If I do my calculation to give employed moms 55% of the median income for a year, I get a cost of about $46 billion – not all that far off from your number (particularly considering the extreme simplification).

It would certainly be amazing to see 80% exclusive breastfeeding rates at 6 months…

Liz February 11, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Not only would it improve breastfeeding rates. It might also lower illness rates amoung children therefore lower medicaid rates. The program could end up paying for itself in the end.

littlecindy May 27, 2012 at 10:17 am

 i like the approach of making it a percentage of your salary.  this is how short term disability works, too. 

June Park May 27, 2012 at 1:05 am

Forget the cost, imagine the payout once the children are growing or grown, the parents have NOT had to scrimp and save and are less stressed. Imagine children whose parents had the time to research and the time to meet and exceed the children’s needs. Imagine the bonding and calm that would envelope those parents who were able to take time off of work and focus on their home, family, and hey let’s add mental health in there. Just imagine how wonderful the payout would be and how positive our society would be in the wake of such a necessary practice.

Jess Brown May 27, 2012 at 2:44 am

Yes, and I would vote on this issue and even encourage others to go out and vote yes on this issue given the opportunity.  Just wish it could be retroactive since I’m done having babies.  I felt lucky compared to my friends because I took 3 months of FMLA.  It felt like pure torture to leave my babies at three months.

Easpatholt May 27, 2012 at 7:21 am

Thanks for posting this.
You didn’t include the cost to the work place. I’m the only person (at my work place) who can do my job. If I take a year off, my boss has to hire someone for a year. That is a huge cost, and bc I work for the government its more of a cost to the tax payers. I would opt for paid 12 weeks with job held for 6 months to a year at no pay.

Sbay8 August 21, 2012 at 8:27 am

Well that’s the part of the puzzle that isn’t talked about. This is actually a double plus for the business owner. #1 the gov’t pays directly to the business, then they pay the employee out of their gov’t rebate, or credit. #2 they don’t have to lose an otherwise good employee, just get a temp until they come back at 6, or 12mo. Also, think about how many more people could be employed at temp jobs with this new program!! The employment rate for the US would skyrocket!

Kelly Warner May 27, 2012 at 7:48 am

I think it would be much more doable if we provided 12 weeks of maternity leave at first, perhaps ramping up to more over the years.    12 weeks gets mothers through the most difficult time of infancy and allows breastfeeding to be well established.   Would I love for all mothers to get a year?   Yes, but I doubt the American public is going to agree with that, especially as bad as the economy is right now – too many families are struggling just to survive.   12 weeks would be much more affordable and would be enough to really make a difference.   It would also make it easier for employers to hire temporary replacements and still be able to hold the job.

mamaof2 May 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

I don’t believe that women who haven’t been working should get the paid leave… maybe it should work like social security in a sense – if you have worked X amount of years in your life, then you are entitled to X amount of dollars.  That being said though – the fathers working years could be calculated in as well… to increase the amount maybe??

I would totally be on board – but I do think it would increase the birth rate!  I totally would have had children SOONER if I knew I could get a paid leave.  I would also have more children!  

I also think it might help the BFing rates….  although I’m not sure how much.  Women who want to breastfeed generally do…. some may just stop sooner due  to not wanting / or being able to pump when returning to work.  So those that don’t breastfeed at all – still probably wouldn’t.  Those that do – might continue longer?  Just my thoughts…

Claudia Zigray May 27, 2012 at 9:30 am

This is America – no one cares about the payout of keeping a child at home and the long term effects of bonding. You are talking about hire taxes and money is all people care about here – something like this would never work in the US.

Leo4281 May 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Ugh… Hate to say it but i agree. Most women I know (we live in the NYC area) dont want to breastfeed. They want to work and feel staying home is not fulfilling. I dont think $ will change that much in regards to these cultural norms, at least in my neck of the woods.

only1aurora1997 May 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm

That is because the majority of americans are selfish and short sighted. The savings just in subsidised daycare for low income mothers would be a boone to the system. Acutally the current system would save quiet a bit if low income mothers were allowed to stay home until a minimum of 12 months and during pregnancy provided comprehensive breastfeeding and infant care classes. If i can find the studies I will link them but what is breaks down is that our current welfare system pays more per month in subsidised daycare for children under age 3 than it would if the mothers were paid to care for their own children at home.

Carol_is_milkmonkeezmom May 30, 2012 at 10:56 am

Please don’t make sweeping judgements about entire populations or countries. It makes people feel attacked and defensive. Then it is very difficult to have these kinds of conversations and make progress.

Kim May 27, 2012 at 9:46 am

Is this how it works in other countries, to give all women the same amount of money regardless of employment status/salary? If not, $26k is a large incentive to have more babies in a country that already has trouble taking care of all its citizens. I’m not sure I would support an entire year of paid leave because the extra tax burden of $66/month would be too high for low-wage earners, such as those on the farm where I work-trade for rent and food. However, I would support something in the 3-6 month range with job protection for longer if the mother would like unpaid leave. A system where women are going back to work full-time when their babies are only 6 weeks old is just plain barbaric.

Karena May 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm

In Canada you need to work 600 hours in the year prior to your mat leave claim or between claims (pregnancies) to qualify so if you are already a SAHM you don’t get anything.

littlecindy May 27, 2012 at 10:15 am

looks like you’re paying for leave for all 4 mil births a year?  no way are that many women working….i would bet it’s half that at least.  cuts the program costs in half.
 

Katie May 27, 2012 at 10:17 am

How about we start with ensuring all women have access to a 12 week maternity leave at full or partial pay?   It’s inhumane to expect a new mother to work up until she goes into labor and then to return after six weeks of short term disability at 50 or 60% of pay.    Many women in our country have NO pay and NO job protection for a period of physical recovery after delivery, and we need to arrange for that first.   12 weeks would be sufficient for the majority of moms to establish breast feeding and become comfortable with it, so it’d have the added benefit of hopefully increasing breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates.         

Once everyone gets a basic paid maternity leave we could worry about extending it, and ideally making such a long leave divisible between the baby’s parents.   There are a growing number of American households in which the mom is the bigger breadwinner (such as mine), and having such a substantial loss of her pay for an extended period would be untenable.   It would be more fair to offer a 6-12 month paid leave that can be shared between the two parents as it suits the family’s finances, and such a program might encourage more involvement of dads in early parenting.    

Kara May 27, 2012 at 10:26 am

I once read an article (I wish I could remember which one!) that stated something along the line of 9 months would be a better timeframe. By 9 months, baby can more easily adjust and mom’s career ideally doesn’t suffer as much. Any sooner and problems with bonding and breastfeeding can occur any later and moms career can suffer. Now obviously that’s not true for everyone, but my son at 9 months is better able to handle my absence than he was at 6 weeks. Plus, I’m more comfortable (and hormonally balanced) 9 months after giving birth than just 6 weeks. It’s certainly a provoking idea to explore regardless of timeframe!

Sara May 27, 2012 at 10:48 am

I think this is only a piece of the problem with our low breast feeding rates. Sure, longer leave would help, but would it really drive a shift in a culture that by and large doesnt support nursing moms and their babies. I agree with the previous poster who said moms who want to nurse are generally going to find a way to make it work. Extended maternity leave (wonderful though it would be) can’t overcome hospital policies that interfere with establishing breast feeding and lack of support for nursing moms.

Disillusioned13 May 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

I would be happu to pay for that and im sure my husbamd would be too as I quit my job to be a sahm and breastfeed our baby. I agree that it should be taxed like Social Security yet the compensation not be based on a womans work history otherwise it ends up being discrimnatory. I had a very hard pregnancy & missed tons of work & it cost my family dearly. Why should familes have to suffer such financial hardship just to have a healthy pregnancy? Its pretty bogus. Especially considering every other developed nation IN THE WORLD has paid maternity leave.

Jeseatackett May 27, 2012 at 11:18 am

Compare this to how much is spent on a federal prisoner. I saw somewhere that each prisoner gets around 25,000$ yearly. We should take from that fund!! They also receive free healthcare, school, computers, weight room etc. they are CRIMINALS! They should have a cell and rice! New mothers need that time and money.

redplanetpdx May 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm

When I went back to work @ 12 wks, BF took a serious hit from which we never fully recovered. I tried really hard to keep it going despite working FT at a demanding job but it was all over by about 7 months. I was devastated. I would have loved to stay home longer to give my child the start in life I intended for her to have.

Lc31 May 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm

While I would have loved to have paid leave for up to a year after my children were born, my husband and I planned our finances knowing the little pay I would have over the 12 weeks I was allowed to have off.  First, I think mandating the 12 week leave for all is important.  Then, allowing for job protection for the mother who wants to take a longer leave, whether it be paid or not. 12 weeks is simply not long enough.  Just to have the time available for me to use, although unpaid, would have been amazing.  My first and I had a rocky start to our breastfeeding relationship, and 12 weeks was almost not long enough for us to get established.  Lastly, we should work on bringing about paid leave, although I disagree with the suggestions above regarding calculating how pay should be considered.  I make more than the median, and if there were to be paid leave, I would expect it to be based on my income, not the average.  I also disagree with paid leave for a mother who was not working prior to the birth of her children.  This alone would increase the birth rate, as having children would become a source of income, which is not the intended purpose of offering paid leave.  I think a system based on hours worked/pay earned in a lifetime should be the ideal used to determine the pay an individual would receive.

Mom May 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm

While your heart is in the right place, this program would.result in more neglected children. Parents would have kids solely for the money. Having a child would be an investment financially and not for the right reasons leading to neglected children to parents taking advantage of the system.

Mom May 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I felt the same way when I read this. Unfortunately there r just too many people out there eager to take advantage of the system. They would have babies and probably not even breastfeed! The problem we have in this country in regards to low breastfeeding rates I believe has more to do with women’s perception of mothering. If all women saw mothering as the most important job in the world, then I believe that the choices they make I regards to working and breastfeeding would greatly change. Its going to take more than $ to alter the current S thoughts on child rearing.

Carol_is_milkmonkeezmom May 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm

You seem to be worried about a stereotype called “The Welfare Queen”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_queen

There are a
great number of links on the subject and you can look them up if you google
“welfare queen myth”. It is a gendered and racist stereotype and has it’s
origins in some dramatic hyperbole Ronald Regan gifted us with back in the
mid-1970′s about a non-existent woman who was supposedly gaming the system quite impressively. It would be really scary if the data actually bore out the assertion that lots of people (women) are taking advantage of the system. It doesn’t.

Also – Low breastfeeding rates are not the result of *women* not valuing motherhood. 50% of our population is male and by and large it is men who are in positions of power and men who are shaping a society that refuses to create a space for mothers and fathers to go about the business of raising their infants/children without negative financial repercussions. Do we all need to value parenthood more? Absolutely! Should we be blaming women and mothers for the abysmal state state of maternity/paternity leave and low breastfeeding rates? No.

Cynthiacpayne June 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I’m not big into entitlements, but I wouldn’t mind paying for this if it was done well. I would like to see a limit on it to prevent abuse-say, each woman can only use the benefit two or three times in her life? This would provide for 90% of women and force more consideration of responsible family planning.

CandiceSmith December 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm

I’m going to have to disagree. I know someone (she is white) and she is not employed, having babies out of wedlock (so it looks like she has no income but lives with her boyfriend who works- but he also bought a house for section-9 rent and said she was living there, but she’s not- someone else who is paying rent on top of the money he receives from section-9 housing is there) and getting all her babies (she has four) paid for during and after their birth. Is it a coincidence that she accidentally gets pregnant right when her food stamps are about to run out?

Carol_is_milkmonkeezmom May 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm

http://www.scb.se/Pages/TableAndChart____273435.aspx

 

The births
per woman in Sweden is steady at right around 1.5-2 children and has been since
at least the 1970′s according to the data (Based on gov’t statistics in Sweden) at the link above. As you
can see Swedish society is not experiencing a population rise that would
support your concerns of more children being born and then neglected with maternity/paternity plans that actually allow parents to spend the first year of a child’s life taking care of that child.

 

This is a
fantastic TED talk about global population growth past and future.

http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies.html 

Don’t let the
title put you off. Basically the thesis is that religion is not as impactful to
population growth as other factors. Population growth is slowing generally worldwide with a couple of fairly large exceptions which are linked factors we can influence.

 

I do not
believe that a program like the one Kelly outlines, one that helps to create an environment that values
parenthood and makes it easier to breastfeed our babies in their first year of
life, will result in a rush of people looking to cash in on a one-time pay-out
slightly over the poverty level (assuming a family of 4 that level is $23,050).

Darlinglou July 8, 2012 at 7:40 am

Really? I live in Sweden where we have the longest AND highest paid mat leave in the world and we don´t have that problem.

4melissajoy May 27, 2012 at 7:05 pm

The AAP, WHO, UNICEF all recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding. I think that this is an essential milestone. If mom’s could be home at least up to six months!! As far as how $$ would be distributed? If it was paid out as a flat rate that would be reverse discrimination. I am the primary wage earner in my family. If I only got $26k while out for a year I wouldn’t be able to afford to utilize that benefit while a mom who works part time for extra income gets the same amount? No, it would have to be a sliding scale based on income. I’d support a flat percentage of my pay rather than a flat rate per month. If I’m understanding correctly. I am pretty happy with the system in California just increase the benefit gradually from 6 weeks up to 1 year over time.

kellymom May 27, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I’m not advocating that the US provide a paid maternity leave like the model I used above – I agree that if it did happen it should probably be based on a mom’s _actual_ income (fascinating idea on also including Dad’s income, mamaof2!), require that a woman work a certain amount of time to qualify, etc. The kind of modeling that would be needed to figure costs for that, however, is much more complicated than can be done here.

I added additional costs at the bottom of the article for a couple of different scenarios: (1) pay all new mothers 50% of the median income for 6 months, and (2) pay only the employed mothers 50% of the median income for 6 months.

Kimgraves3 May 28, 2012 at 12:06 am

I feel as if twelve weeks is a great start but should be longer as far a FMLA goes (and I may be wrong on a national level but in CO…) at twelve weeks for me I was just getting out the ‘fog’. My employer did not allow me to use my short term disability, because I had too much sick and vacation time, although I used every bit of my twelve weeks! I feel as if the government should support new working mothers more than they do, working mothers are a functioning part of our society and community.

Hope May 28, 2012 at 1:10 am

Why not start on the minimum wage to help with the budget issues?
Australia has only had paid maternity leave for just over a year now, and is 18 weeks at minimum wage. It helps the lower paid women the most, as it’s those closest to the minimum wage who are those who really can’t afford the unpaid time off work

Whitney May 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

This is a wonderful topic and as mentioned so many other countries do have something in place and it seems strange the US does not.
I have 3 children and have only been able to completely nurse my youngest. I contribute that success to the fact I was able to stay home a full 4 weeks longer than the other two.
Having said that, I can’t help but wonder with such a bill in place how many women would just have children for income instead of being a productive part of society much the way it is cheaper for someone without college education to live on state funds than get a minimum wage paying job

Marie8351 June 12, 2012 at 9:32 am

I think that if woman could get at least paid 12 weeks it would be highly appreciated. I am currently 30 weeks pregnant and I am having the worst time. I am stressed about everything because my baby was not planned. My boyfriend and I are trying to get a home and be able to give our child a great life, but in order to do this we need financial stability. When you have bills and are not expecting on having a baby the process becomes very stressful. I think a woman knowing that she will be okay to leave her work for 12 weeks would be a huge weight lifted from her shoulders.

I mean the government gives people on Welfare all this money to sit home on their ass and do nothing. But a woman that is trying to reproduce and still work has no benefits. It is not that woman don’t want children or to stay home with the child longer it is that they FINANCIALLY CANNOT. It is a huge burden on the mother and father.  I would pay more taxes in order to have this benefit in case I have another child down the road.

i also think that having at least 12 weeks off with your child and less stress will give the mother time to bond with their child. Yes, some woman may have more babies because they get paid, but that is going to happen no matter what. People on welfare do it all the time. Let’s just think that if this benefit is put into place that more DECENT HUMANS will have children and actually use the time to bond with their children.

Diana June 12, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I’m American but live in the UK and over here you can take all or part of up to a year off from working after having a child and are guaranteed to go back to your previous position with the same pay. The basic govt mandated maternity pay is 90 percent of salary for 6 weeks (paid by employer) and then 37 weeks of statutory state pay which works out at about £550 a month plus you get a child benefit of £80 month. Some mothers will also get other benefits based on lower incomes. So you see it is a mix of pay for working moms, state payouts for all moms. It certainly does not cover my bills but it helps a lot. It’s more important to me that I have the option of a year off if I want it and don’t have to quit my job. There are other benefits too under my contract, like my holiday time continues to accrue so at the end of my mat leave I can take a month off and get paid (loads of moms do this). I do have a slight issue with all mothers getting state benefit even if they haven’t worked. You see a lot of teenage girls over here with a few children, they will get loads of benefits and a house without ever having worked. So I do think some of maternity pay should be linked to what you put into the system. But also the option of a year off is very important to me over money.

Tracy Hilliard June 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm

In Canada, you make 55% of your potential income unless you are in the lowest tax bracket – and then it’s 80%.

On top of that you get baby bonus, which is based off of household earnings  of both parents (but only if you are considered to “need” it – as you wages go up, the bonus goes down).

Instead of basing the wage on some “miricle formula” of what “might be fair” – it’s based on what you do for a living – what you are stepping away from if you’re going to take leave. This would substantially reduce these figures – and would not “encourage” moms to stay on “baby welfare” – as they would be making MORE money by working.

Trish January 29, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Tracy, I’ve heard it said that paying low-income/poor/unemployed women maternity leave (or any benefit) results in people having children just for the money and is a drag on the welfare system in general. Does that happen in Canada? Is it a problem?

June2012 June 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

I’m 6 months pregnant and have 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave coming up, so I think that proposal sounds great. My husband and I make about the same salary, so it will be a bit of a juggling act. (He works for a nonprofit so it’s not like we make tons of $$.)

Karen June 27, 2012 at 7:38 am

 I think there’s more to those high BF rates then just paid mat leave.  From what I have read, the whole birthing experience is much different in the places mentioned, with midwives being used a lot more.  That may also have an influence on the BF rate. 

E.Marie June 27, 2012 at 11:57 am

Certainly, a program like this would be helpful in encouraging higher breastfeeding rates, but I am unsure what the best implementation would be. I am even more unsure of how we could afford it. If you take a look at the financial situation in the world with whole countries needing bail outs, massive debt, and financial instability, a program like this becomes another financial burden that we likely cannot afford. There is something to the idea that with more breastfeeding healthcare costs would fall, but that also assumes that a substantially large percentage of women aren’t breastfeeding because of short maternity leave. I don’t know those numbers, so I can’t really say what the impact would be. I feel strongly that it is no one else’s responsibility to pay for you to stay home with the baby for a year. If every company were forced by law to provide a three to six month paid maternity leave, it would effectively suck the company dry. Now, if a woman could opt in to that program and have a specific amount taken out of her paychecks, then it would become a much more practical option. Government should have nothing to do with paid maternity leave. That should be solely at the discretion of the company providing it. If you want a paid maternity leave, then you should plan for it or work for a company that provides it. “Universal” programs make one disturbing assumption: it is someone else’s responsibility to pay for you. I do not believe that to be true. I do agree that the system is flawed and that our financial house is a wreck. But I do not believe that the government is the answer. And a few more questions: Can any country afford universal healthcare, and at what cost? Is quality compromised for quantity? What about rationing, doctor shortages, and compromising the quality of care due to cost? Should a government bureaucrat come between you and your doctor? All of these are disturbing questions to me and I wish the answers were simple, but they are not. But again, I know that government is not the answer. 

beckythebunny June 29, 2012 at 10:37 am

Well, since FMLA currently doesn’t cover all women, I would like to have everyone qualify for 12 weeks unpaid leave first!  I don’t qualify for any leave at all, which completely sucks.  I only was able to take off 1 week then had to go back.  Now I’m looking at switching jobs, but I still wouldn’t be covered under FMLA because I would be there less than a year (I’m currently pregnant).  Forget paid maternity leave, start with unpaid!

Sparkles2_4 July 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm

My only problem with this is would people have kids just to stay home? B/c if you get paid a flat salary, then for some people (esp in rural America) the salary for staying @ home is more than they make all year, maybe even for 2 years! Also, would the gov. eventually put a limit to the amt. of kids each person is allowed to have?? I’m all for this as long as the above 2 concerns don’t happen.

stephm July 5, 2012 at 8:00 am

While I understand the desire for working mothers to be home with their babies for a year, a program like this will have the consequence of making it more difficult for stay at home mothers if they are not also included in the benefits (and most people commenting seem to be very against SAHMs getting any benefit).  Most SAHMs are not extremely well to do and make many financial sacrifices to stay home.  Asking their families to pay $66 a month in order to allow working mothers to stay home for a year is just wrong on so many levels if they are not also going to benefit from the program.  If we really care about the welfare of children, we would not put even more obstacles in front of women who have the desire to stay home and who are usually able to do so only with great financial sacrifice.  After all, isn’t the ability to choose what is best for our families what we really want?

Robear24 August 2, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Just one quick point: my parents paid taxes my entire life, some of which went to fund public schools. I did not attend public school but they still had to pay for it through taxes. So why would it be any different for SAHM’s families to pay but not receive the benefit? Just had to throw that out there.

Goingtoheaven87 July 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I would love just 12 weeks off. I only got 6 weeks off and back to work. Thankfully with a lot of effort I am still EBF at 7 months, but I have a lot of support. I didn’t feel as if BFing was established when I returned and 12 weeks would have been great! I like the idea of meeting minimum working hour requirements and basing it off your pay. I wish they would require 12 weeks and up to at least 6 months if you continue BFing which would be ideal if they really wanted to encourage breastfeeding.

Goingtoheaven87 July 18, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Oh and don’t forget the aspect of possibly creating temporary jobs which would help our unemployment rate, especially if we got to where Sweden is at with up to 3 years!

Nw20thandbar July 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm

it is covered as a short term disability, but sasdly only for 6 or 8 weeks at a max of 66% of your pay. in states like california, that is run by the state and all workers pay into it. in other states you need private disability insurance. 

Natalya August 3, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Well, I’m originally from Russia and we have 3 years paid maternity leave there. It’s not much-as far as I know for the first 1,5 year mothers get about $200 per month-it doesn’t sound much,because it’s in dollars,but in Russian rubles   it’s equal a low-income salary and it’s better then nothing like I’m getting over here in USA like a stay-at-home mom. And on top of it in Russia you are receiving a mother’s certificate for $ 10 000 after you give birth to your second child. As for breastfeeding it’s customary in Russia to breastfeed for a long time-1,5-2 years is regular, but when they didn’t have this paid leave 40 years ago our moms  had to be back to work and were able to breastfeed only for a short time.It’s obvious-if woman is relaxed,enjoys her motherhood and knows she would have money for necessities why wouldn’t she breastfeed if it’s so beneficial for the baby? It’s a shame that USA- a pretty rich country- does so little for their mothers and babies. And a lack of decent daycare and a cost of it over here in USA-DON’T LET ME START ON THIS SUBJECT…

Ky August 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Canada has a great system. 6 weeks are you are only just healed. Breast feeding is only just starting to come together. Here you do have to work so many hours in the year before birth. You get a percentage of your salary up to a max. I capped out at around 900 biweekly..I don’t remember the exact number. I wasn’t back to work quite long enough to meet the hours for #2 so nothing this go around. Your job is held for that year. Your employer cannot give it away. It is easy to fill mat leave positions on year long contracts. I couldnt imagine leaving a little baby so soon. I also couldn’t imagine pumping that much. Here as well your spouce can take the time or you can split it. Some do this if the woman makes more money at the end of the year. Maternity leave is only 12 weeks for the mother…the rest is actually parental leave available to any parent.

paskita May 28, 2013 at 9:13 pm

That is an important point to mention, that the rest of the weeks can be used partly by mom or dad. So dad is also encouraged to play an active role in the upbringing of the child but also bonding with him or her.

mami September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I think it would be wonderful if something like this  is established. However, I would be happy with full 3 months of paid maternity leave for those women who are already working.  I am from Peru and this is what women get. Full pay (100% wages) for 3 months.  They even get a small subsidy for breastfeeding!

Dvorah Kelley September 22, 2012 at 8:19 am

My daughter-in-law, a teacher, was “fortunate” to have had five months with our grandson, thanks to summer vacation.  BUT, she should be still staying with him, instead of with other people’s children – she works from 7-4 (HS level), while someone else watches him.  We have him one day a week to help out (and it’s fun!).   My wish is that moms who want to be home for that very important year should have the means to do so, and I fully endorse this proposal!!!  How do we make it happen????

Victoria J October 15, 2012 at 8:39 pm

If most devloped countries implemented such programs, I don’t understand why US is not able to. It is barbaric to leave a tiny baby in the hands of strangers, which a lot of us dont have a choice but do! And it is barbaric to make families go through that stress of finding a daycare or babysitters or family members that will take care of the baby. Im still on my leave and all i can do right now is stress about the time when I have to go back to work because I am terrified of putting her in daycare, i dont know how she will be treated there, same goes for babysitters! And we can’t afford for me to stay at home but for an extra month maybe and we don’t have any family members that will be able to watch her for at least another couple of months before putting her in datcare! 12 weeks is not enough! The baby is barely establishing the routine & the mother is barely starting to recover from being a sleep deprived zombie! It has to be at least 6 months! And even that is a minimum! I don’t understand throw families in the rest of the states deal with this, the states that don’t even have 12 weeks of paid leave! I just don’t understand how a country like US, that is so family oriented, 100% ignored an issue like this! I think something most definitely has to be done!!!!

KB November 20, 2012 at 4:34 am

Why not make it a program that working women pay into? I agree that something needs to be done – I have had a friend go back to work after 6 weeks – so hard to do!! I have read some of the other comments about SAHM moms having partners that pay into the system, and I understand that it is “not fair” to pay in and not get the benefits because you are making a different choice than a 2-income family. We are also a homeschooling family – paying 2x for a school system we do not use. We pay our property taxes to fund public education, plus the cost of our own homeschool. Here is my idea that allows the woman to fund her leave; along with this, some legislation would need to be passed that the job is held for her for “x” amount of time: If a woman knows that working is important to her and/or a financial necessity, then she should have the option to pay into a maternity savings fund when she starts her employment, like a 401K that can move with you, wherever you work. If and when she starts having children, then she can pay herself out of her fund, thereby erasing the “equity” argument – she gets paid what she saved. If you work minimum wage, you get your minimum wage pay…if you are about the median, then you get your above the median pay…and if she never has children, then she can cash it out when she knows that childbearing is not in her cards. It is so easy to say “stick it to the employer” – well, what if the employer is a Mom/Pop shop with barely there profit margins? Can they afford a full maternity pay plus the cost of paying another employee (salary, payroll taxes, benefits) while the mom is out on her leave? They could go out of business and the mom would have no where to go back to work. In the land of freedom, I am all about the freedom to choose to stay at home or go back to work, and along with that, a program that makes either choice your responsibility.

golfermom January 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Thank you so much for giving actual costs to paid maternity leave. I would be willing to spend a little more money each month for the health benefits for women and children.

Trish January 29, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Interesting thought on having it come out of your own paycheck. I would consider that as long as my employer never found out. In many male-dominated fields letting your company know that you are planning for a family puts you at the very end of the list for promotions.

Maybe using a deduction on your w-9? Probably smarter to save and invest your money though. Would be an interesting thing to add to financial planning. How to Save for Staying Home with Your New Baby 101. Wish I’d had that class!

SJC22 February 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I currently am living in Germany where women get a choice of 3 years off of work with the first year they get a percentage of their pay the second year a lesser percentage of their pay and the 3rd year just their health care is paid for. They can opt for just the first year off where they would get both their 1st and 2nd year percentages together equaling more pay. It makes sense. I worked in the states at a company that would only give me a month off because I got pregnant as soon as I got the job. I would have been fired if I did not return to my job after that month. I would rather give birth in a country that didn’t penalize me for having children. I strongly believe the US needs to change maternity options. As well as Paternity leave. Fathers should be allowed to stay home with their babies without eating up all their vacation time!

habi March 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm

All I can say is that it works well for the UK. Up to 12 months maternity leave (6 months full pay, 6 months half pay.) The mother can choose to transfer some of her leave to the father, who in addition to what he shares with the mother, gets 2 weeks off anyway if he wants. So it is much more like “family” leave rather than paternity/maternity; the fact that men can take the time off as well really helps with the discrimination aspect.

Women on maternity leave cannot be fired while on maternity leave; if they are made redundant they must be offered another similar position; if no position is available (i.e., company shutting down) they must be fully compensated for the loss of their job. There are rules about it (you have to work for the company full time for at least six months, you must give X amount of notice, you get paid either your salary or Statuatory Maternity Pay – whichever is LOWER), it’s not a free-for-all and it doesn’t encourage people to spew out children willy-nilly. It is limited afterall. But it shouldn’t be that women must choose between career and family; I really feel it is the responsibility of society to nurture solid family life. Everyone benefits in the long run.

elizabeth santiago August 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm

scrap welfare program or reduce it that will help also. some welfare beneficiaries are sooo lazy and overweight