An op-ed in the Washington Post calls for paid family and maternity leave because the 12 weeks of unpaid leave provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is grossly inadequate. Sharon Lerner traces the history of legislative efforts to provide paid leave to support workers’ families, the compromised law that is the FMLA, and the pernicious effects of inadequate paid leave. The need for reform is stark:
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.