Paid Maternity Leave for All: France Did it. Why Not Here?

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Just recently, President Obama added another item to his growing to-do list as President of the United States. I mean, he's got immigration to deal with, he's got Russia to deal with, he's got ISIS taking over Iraq to deal with—he's got tons on his plate. But if he thinks this topic is something that needs to be addressed in the midst of global unrest, it might be kinda important.

The topic? Paid maternity leave.

Many of you gals out there are working mothers and have to take a huge pay cut when you have your baby. Yes, technically you are protected by law from getting the axe because you had a baby, but you're still missing out on money. But then again, so people may ask,”You aren't working, so why should you get paid? Aren't you paid for the work that you do?” In this case, the theory is “no work, no money.”

However, every other industrialized nation gives mothers a little bit of money to hold them over while they're taking care of their brand new baby. President Obama himself said, “If France can figure this out, we can figure this out,” which, if you're French, I'm not sure how well that comment is going to sit with you. But that's not the point. 

{ MORE: Guess What? Americans Aren't Having Enough Babies }

What lawmakers are proposing is that every wage-earning person in the country would be taxed and 0.2% per year. (The original plan was to only raise taxes on people making $250,000+. This hasn't been the case.) So, if you were making $40,000 a year, you would end up being throwing $80 per year into the maternity-leave pot. Now, $80 over the course of the year isn't a ton of money, but if everyone is taxed that much, it adds up to a lot of money going towards paid maternity leave, and that can help a lot of women and their families pay for whatever they may need in a time of tons of transitions.

But is that fair? Is it fair for the perpetually single guy having to pay $80 a year to a service that will never benefit him or his wife? Is it fair for the woman who can't have children or doesn't want children to pay for other women to take maternity leave? It's usually understood that these types of taxes will benefit everyone i.e. if you help someone with maternity leave, you, in turn, will receive maternity pay when you birth a child. 

Is fairness really an issue? Some would say that we should be more than willing to help each other out. Think of your sister, your mother, your cousin, your best friend. Would you want others to give a measly 0.2% to women who are trying their absolute hardest to work for their families and raise successful children? 

{ MORE: 4 Ways to Stretch Your Maternity Wardrobe into Fall }

Let me know what you think! What is your take on paid maternity leave in the US? 

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Paid Maternity Leave for All: France Did it. Why Not Here?

Jace Whatcott is a self-diagnosed introvert who loves crossword puzzles, golf, and reading. Despite being a male contributor—one of the few on this particular website—he is not in unfamiliar territory. Because he is an English major, 90% of his classmates are females, so he’s not too worried about being a fish out of water. One of his favorite things to do is to raid local thrift stores for used books. He’s always looking for something to read, or for something to put on his endless to-r ... More

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21 comments

  1. Louise says:

    Wow. That is sad – a mother has already so much to worry about, and then still have to struggle with the idea of not having enough money during a time when it’s so needed. I’m brazilian and here we have almost full payment during maternity leave (there are some discounts because you don’t get food or meal vouchers, for instance; but I think that’s it), and the government grants 4 months of leave; some companies pay for additional 2 months – because they then get a discount on their taxes from the brazilian version of the IRS. Specifically in my case, I also managed to plan my overdue vacation to be taken when this additional time is over, which will help me be home for 7 months, breastfeeding for the recommended period and being able to wean my baby smoothly.

    This may seem like a lot of time from “productive” work, but c’mon: what is more productive and important to us, as a society, than raising children appropriately? It’s a 6 month period that will help creating healthy kids (which won’t need as much medical treatment, thus costing less to the parents and the governments), as much as kids that will be more confident. It is not an easy and pointless job, looking after a newborn. Hope the US can find a way on this one.

  2. Kaleh says:

    I am fortunate to be a stay at home mom, I have a great fiancé who worked to jobs when he found out I was pregnant…. I know that it is hard now a days to even be lucky to have one job so we feel very blessed… And for Carmen no offense, but it’s not that easy to quit your job and go get one that appreciates you better at least not in California they will replace you there is so much competition these days… The employer will find someone new and pay them less no problem I have friends that have been looking for a job for months now and they have their bachelors. So, I understand the stressed out working mom and I would not care for that money to be taxed if it’s for a good cause. I also will be going back to work once my baby is in school and hopefully my degrees help and I would not care to contribute to mothers. We already pay taxes for other things that we are not even 100% sure where the money is going why not families who need it.

  3. TerryAnn says:

    To say the least im surprised the US doesn’t offer paid maternity leave. I live in Jamaica and here we get maternity leave with our full monthly salaries for each month we are off.I don’t think taxing is the way. The government should make paid maternity leave mandatory in your labour laws. Witholding a new mothers salary while she is on maternity leave is akin to punishing her for getting pregnant. Where is the ‘families are important’ in all of this?

  4. Nadege says:

    I think its a great idea. I’m not saying it because I’m expecting, I believe it would be fair for working mothers like me to get a little help. Canada is doing it, France also, why not the US? I pay for other things from my paycheck, why not maternity leave? My daughter, nieces, nephews wives, or others will benefit from it on day. Why not?

  5. Gema says:

    It would be great if we could get this! I mean, otherwise is there a way to file for unemployment? Because those who file for unemployment give the argument that maybe they work a seasonal job and they need help to keep up with expenses for their families during the off season right? We help with their kids … why can’t we be helped too?

    My first child … well I had it all planned out. I budgeted and saved enough money for rent and absolutely necessary items like food, diapers, gas, electricity, etc. No room for eating out, buying new movies …
    I knew I had paid time off that I could use that would put me through one month and the other month, well I wouldn’t get a check. So I had enough for a little over a month. But then I got put on half bedrest if you may. I was limited to half days of work because of preeclampsia issues creeping up on me the last month or two of my pregnancy and that dipped in to my plan and messed it up! I figured with my husband’s income and the time I still had off we could make ends meet or maybe skip a few payments until I got back to work (I talked to my landlord and the big companies to explain and they agreed to let us slide for at least a month or two without late fees thankfully!) But then … my mother in-law who came to help me with the baby … ended up being rushed into an emergency surgery. She lives off of our income so we took in all of her medical bills which were about $50,000. And then she wasn’t able to help as much as she wanted to with the baby for a while, adding to our costs for childcare. I went in to labor about a week or two earlier than expected. I went in to labor the day after my mother in law went in to surgery! So my husband missed a whole week of work. Even though he presented all of the necessary documents, his job still decided to fire him. He was the lead position and while he was gone on these two emergency situations, the other people in his group made some serious mistakes and the company decided to blame my husband although it is not his responsibility to train them to do his position in case he is gone. So my husband and I were out of a job for about two or three months together at the same time. We had medical bills totaling more than $100,000! And we had no way to pay any of our bills. We both got one last paycheck each and we had to get a loan to pay our bills during that time. It has taken 7 months to somewhat get back on our feet. We are paying our bills and sometimes end up paying late fees and skipping one bill one month in order to pay the others in order to avoid being sent to collections. It has been difficult, stressful, overwhelming … and now we are expecting our second child. I pray another situation like the first doesn’t repeat itself and that this time we will be okay. If we could get paid maternity leave … I would be ever so grateful. It would be a great help just to know that you don’t have to worry that your electricity will get cut off with a newborn at home. It would be one less thing to stress out about. I can understand if people think it is unfair to get taxed for something they aren’t benefiting from though. But it would be nice if they could see our side of the story too.

  6. Suzette says:

    For those who think it’s so simple to just plan everything out financially in a few months, then you must have it pretty good. This has nothing to do with pride, but more of compassion. Yes, this could fall into a case by case basis. I’m 34 years old and almost 8 months pregnant. I’ve always looked forward to being a mother. I have always been financially responsible and have held a job since I was old enough to work with little to no help from family members and certainly not the government. In other words I’ve always paid my taxes. I look forward to every moment I get to spent with my son as a newborn. Unfortunately I have to return to work in 6 weeks! And I have to pump at work in an office? I heard at least they black out the windows for you… I have always tried using my vacation wisely and right now is no exception. I’m working until the end to accrue as much as I can to cover my waiting period before disability kicks in and also to continue saving. The rest of my accrued time I used to go see my dad in Puerto Rico who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We didn’t know how much time he had so it was crucial I get to spend time with him. I found out I was pregnant when I returned from my trip. My boyfriend was recently laid off work since it’s so slow, and he has 2 other kids to pay child support for as well. In other words… a lot can happen in 10 months. We all pay taxes for a ton of other things, do we even know for what exactly? There are so many women out there irresponsibly having children, one after another, and guess what… we pay taxes for them to stay home and keep having babies. The government doesn’t seem to have a problem giving them money for for medical bills, food, car payments, etc… hmmmm. I’m not saying pay me for a year off with my child, but 6 weeks is ridiculous. Not to mention child care costs are out of this world along with everything else. Let’s leave pride out of this, everyone needs a little help once in a while. This should be a stress free time bonding with your newborn.

    • becky says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I can’t believe that the government thinks we can survive off of $170.00 a week for disability when I bring home over 3 x’s that. I have always worked hard for my money and never relied on anyone else. I had a hard enough time with my first child. With baby #2 approaching I have no idea how I am going to survive. The last thing I should have to worry about is money when I should be enjoying what little time I have with my newborn. I probably won’t even take my full leave just so I can generate some income. I really wish there was more help for hard working moms

  7. Jessica says:

    I think we should have paid maternity leave. I’m 23 years old I’ve been working since I was 16 but as soon as my job found out I was pregnant I was forced onto maternity love because my job is too dangerous to work at while pregnant. They have given me disability but it is not enough to sustain myself and a child on. Yes it may not be fair that others who don’t want or can’t have children have to pay a minor tax but how is that any different then being taxed for social services? I’ve never been on Medicad me or food stamps but I still help pay for that through my taxes in New York. I don’t think that’s fair but I do it because it helps someone else benefit from it and besides I don’t have a choice it’s coming out anyway. There is no difference between that and paid maternity leave. It’s hard enough being pregnant and having the stress of that and then you add more stress because you can’t work and don’t have sustainable income and there’s no one offering to help.

    • Gema says:

      I agree with you! I don’t qualify for food stamps or medical benefits or any type of help. So I have to buy insurance through my job which isn’t too bad but once you figure how much I pay in taxes and premiums, I have about $300.00 deducted from each paycheck. I get two paychecks a month. One goes straight to the rent office. And then I only have one check to buy everything else for the month and pay for car insurance, electricity, etc. It’s hard. And I try not to judge those who are on welfare or unemployment because I know they need it too. But I don’t get it … I “earn too much to qualify” for any government assistance but I live worse than those who do qualify for everything! It’s hard for me when I know that they get more than I do in food stamps alone per month! So why can’t the rest of us get a little help during the 6 weeks we are allowed off of work? Just 6 weeks … come on 🙂

  8. Aisha says:

    I think that maternity leave should be left up to the employer. Imagine how complicated it would be to have to try and get these benefits from the government. When I had my child I just saved up enough money to cover the bills and took 6 weeks off. It was tough but we made it.

  9. Carmen says:

    I think that our government already does a pretty poor job when it comes to ”benefits” and public services and giving them more money to mismanage will not make anyone’s life easier. How about people working full time at any company of a certain size be given the option to select a short-term disability plan that they pay into themselves? Or you can independently seek out an insurance company yourself that is not connected to your workplace and cover yourself. That way the perpetually single or childless person is not having to pay for someone else’s reproductive choices. I would love to be paid just to be a mom but the money has to come from somewhere and I just do not trust the government to manage that kind of thing well. I’m only getting disability for my recovery which will only kick in after I have the baby. I have just used up all of my vacation time as I’ve had to already go on maternity leave due to some health complications that I needed to manage. Have some pride people! We have at least 7-8 months (depending on when we realize we are pregnant) to plan for our families financially and otherwise. My husband and I have paid ahead on our utility bills and set money aside in savings to prepare for the possibility of my income being drastically reduced. It hasn’t been easy but I’m proud that we are standing on our own two feet due to our planning. According to the Family Medical Leave Act EVERYONE has protection for 12 weeks of time off of work due to medical issues. Those may or may not be paid depending on the company you work for but you don’t have to worry about losing your job to have a baby (or care for a loved one, or deal with serious health issues…etc). I think if companies are smart they would demonstrate that they care about the work/life balance of their employees. I’m lucky to work for one such place but I also sought out that place for the benefits as well as the job itself. So, on the flipside if you work for a place that doesn’t appreciate the work that you do or offer you benefits, no one is forcing you to stay there. Get a job at a place where your work is appreciated and compensated appropriately and stop complaining that you should be entitled to something that you haven’t bothered trying to earn, plan for or go after yourself. Uncle Sam is there to protect me if my country goes to war or my constitutional rights are at risk of being violated, not to give me money just because I’m in need. Like i said, have some pride people and plan your own darn life.

  10. Myriam says:

    It will be about time if the US considering to give working mom maternity leave. This had great benefits for a lot of party concerned. For the mom you get to spend time in bonding to the child, for the child less exposure to the world, less sickness, less daycare fee because if the mom has to go to work somebody else got to look after the child. For employer you will have a stress free job because you will not have a mom on a average of week calling out or leaving early to attend to their sick newborn. For the question of where will the government will get the money? I think it’s fair enough the 0.2% from every working person is fair $80 per year is nothing compare on what us this consuming society spend a day compare to help our fellow countrywomen. I am expecting and I was fortunate enough to get 12 weeks of maternity leave and short term disability of 60% of my paycheck for 4weeks normal delivery and 8weeks for C-section. But that’s only for my recovery what about this newborn when mom got to go back to work as soon as he came out and mom has to hand him over stranger just few weeks into this world. I think America could do better as one of the world biggest industrialized country. They should do better.

  11. ryan says:

    I believe yes is the answer less stress for the mother. Am the one who thinks that the better the worker feels the best it will work think about it we work because we need money and if for some reason we stop getting it the headaches, stress and sickness take over, meaning a grumpy or exhaust mommy will work instead of a happy new mommy. I would say yes even if I do not wish babies but because of my family my neighbor my coworker for that lady that I do not know yet I wish She enjoy motherhood to the max without worries or headaches.com

  12. shawna says:

    Just moved to the USA to marry my wonderful husband, and bam I am pregnant. In Canada you get a year off with 70% of your regular pay. I find it stone age that women get so little time with their new baby before being forced to return to work or loose their job…and then I find out that little time is UNPAID! This country needs to catch up with the rest of civilization.

  13. Kelly says:

    I think the ol USA needs to get with the rest of the world. Canadians get up to 17 weeks maternity leave, Germans get up to 4 months, English mommies can get 14-39 weeks depending on the situation. The big difference to everyone paying into a pot is that “working” moms have to apply for maternity leave and most of these countries ( for example Canada) make the mom pay the “preimium” for their maternity leave compensation buy not getting paid a specific number of weeks or a premium payment deduction each check. ( Canadian moms don’t get paid the first 2 weeks of their leave) I think it’s our country’s obligation to working moms to give them a resource to be able to get compensation while they are home the first few months and give them some kind of job protection. I think 3 months is fair. Any less does not get your baby over the tiny infant stage where they are tons of work and should only be handled by mom and/or dad! I agree making everyone pay into something is not fair or necessary, but giving moms a way to keep their household afloat those first 3 months is the right thing to do. Many employers give no paid benefits and so if you want your 12 weeks you take it without pay or help!

    • Lana says:

      Ontario can get up to 50 weeks paid maternity/parental leave with EI paying up to 55% of your income. I worked as a nurse in the hospital, and the hospital topped that pay up to 90% I think it was. And parental leave can be taken by either parent. I took it – but my husband could have taken it if we wanted it that way. I don’t agree with everything Canada does, but – I will say – the USA is not at all concerned about the family. That first year is crucial in babies development, and having to put them in daycare as an infant is insane!! I am so thankful to be in Canada and be Canadian where family is valued a little more.

  14. Danielle says:

    All of us are not fortunate enough to have jobs with benefits. Where I work is great but it isn’t possible for me to take a paid maternity leave. Luckily I have a husband that can supplement that but it’s still going to make financial things hard on him. I tried to look up ways to disability through the state but no such luck. If there was a paid maternity leave which $80 a year is not that much in the grand scheme of things it could take a lot of stress off mothers. My pregnancy wasn’t exactly planned, which a lot of pregnancies aren’t that is stress in itself. I think it is selfish for us not to want to help. We pay into social security and many of us may not get to get that back. We also pay into medicare, some of us might not be able to get that but it is helping people in need. I spend $80 on a hair appointment so $80 a year is nothing. What is something is having to go to work 2 days after you have given birth because you can’t afford to take care of that newborn if you take a maternity leave. Then you are shaking your head because you think that she is a bad mother. I think paid maternity leave for all is a wonderful and needed idea.

  15. ovation says:

    I have 2 babies and was lucky enough to at least be able to have 6 weeks of short term disability. Yes I paid into it myself but at least it gave me 60% of my wages. I don’t think it’s right to make an already over taxed society pay for maternity leave. Companies should be at least made to offer short term disability benefits for future moms. I have worked for a company that didn’t offer anything for maternity leave. Let’s start small first. Besides I see this as going just like social security. Another fund for our government to frivolously spend so they can tell us later that the money is going to run out

  16. Rose says:

    I don’t think a maternity leave tax is fair at all, and I’m currently pregnant and wish my employer (the military) gave me more maternity leave. It should be up to each individual company to provide maternity leave benefits that will retain the talent of the women they employ. Google, for example, gives each parent that works there 6 months of paid leave, so if both parents worked there they could have the whole year off, combined! They are obviously very interested in investing in their employees and retaining that talent. But of course, not all of us are fortunate enough to work at a company like that. I only get 6 weeks of paid leave in the military, which I feel is only half of what I need. So I will use my earned leave to take additional time off. Someone else will already have to do my job during that time…they shouldn’t have to subsidize my paycheck too. Side note, France has lots of problems when it comes to money/taxes and they not are a country to be emulated in that regard…

  17. Austin says:

    Taxes are the price of living in a society. It is in the best interest of society for the next generation to actually be born and healthy. Lots of people in this country pay a lot of lip services to the importance of family in our society, but when it comes down to it , they don’t want to put their money where their mouth is.

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