Maternity Leave in the United States

Pregnant woman sitting at a desk working on a laptop with hand on bellyAround 24% of the top companies in America provide a working mother with 4 weeks or less of maternity leave, while 52% provide a new mother with 6 weeks or less. The United States has a very different approach to the subject of maternity leave in comparison to the rest of the world.

In Canada, new mothers can expect up to 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, while in Sweden a new mother can split up to 16 months of maternity leave at 80% of her salary with a partner. The United States and Australia are the only industrialized nations that do not have a paid maternity leave provision for new mothers on a national scale. Though there are some exceptions made in a few states in America, most companies do not offer the option of paid maternity leave for expectant mothers.

There are no federal laws in place to mandate paid maternity leave; however, there are two laws designed to protect the rights of an employee in relation to pregnancy, adoption, parenthood, and caring for gravely ill family members.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 requires an employer to treat an expectant mother in the same manner as any other employee with a temporary medical disability. All conditions of employment such as pay rates, incentives, paid sick time, health benefit coverage and temporary disability insurance apply. The law forbids an employer from discriminating against a pregnant worker or forcing them into taking a leave of absence for pregnancy reasons. The law does not have a provision for paid leave however, if an employer provides a paid leave for certain medical conditions, pregnancy must be included. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies to companies that have more than 15 employees.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) protects an employee's job in the event a leave of absence is taken because of an employee's own personal disability or illness, including maternity leave, adoption, fostering a child, or taking care of a gravely ill member of the immediate family such as a spouse, parent, or child. FMLA applies to an employee has worked for their company for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 consecutive months. The law applies to companies who have more than 50 employees. Under the provisions of FMLA, an eligible employee can receive:

  • Up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year (leave may be taken consecutively or intermittently, and for a portion or all of a day)
  • Continuing health insurance benefits (if already provided by the employer)
  • Job protection (an employee is guaranteed to return to the same job or its equivalent)

Congress is now considering more legislation in regards to supporting the rights of working parents. Recently, two bills have been introduced which provide paid time off for new parents and other workers. Entitled the Family Leave Insurance Act (S 1681), this incentive would offer up to 8 weeks of paid leave to new parents or those employees who need time off to care for an ill family member. The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (HR 3158) would grant federal employees up to 8 weeks of paid parental leave. These two bills, if passed in Congress, would effectively give American workers more paid family leave than is currently available, improve economic security of a family, and improve the health and welfare of both mother and infant.

What do you think?

Maternity Leave in the United States

Tell us what you think!


  1. Profile photo of Marcella Marcella says:

    I am gladly going to take my maternity leave and get paid for 100% of the time I am off.

  2. Profile photo of Sharhonda83 Sharhonda83 says:

    Sounds like I need to move to Sweden : )

  3. Profile photo of Jaime Jaime says:

    Until you do your research on maternity leave in your country or job you would never know that it in the US there is rarely a such thing as maternity leave. You can use FMLA at most jobs but their are requirements and you might not be paid. That is ridiculous.

  4. "FMLA applies to an employee has worked for their company for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 consecutive months. The law applies to companies who have more than 50 employees." What they leave out is that they have to have more than 50 employees in a certain distance of eachother. My company has over 50 employees but I’m at a branch a few hundred miles away from the bulk of the employees so I don’t get the 12 weeks. I only have 5 other employees in my office and because of that I am only able to get 6 weeks unpaid maternity. If we have any paid time off that we’ve accrued we’ll get paid for that time(unless you can schedule using your PTO right before you go into labor, in that case you can have extra time off). I’m just happy my work has been so understanding and supportive. I’ll take whatever time off I can get, even if it is unpaid and my husband only works part time. I am happy I get to spend time with my new little one when she comes!

  5. Profile photo of Pixie Pixie says:

    In England mothers have paid maternity leave for the length of the time of breast feeding. In most cases it’s a 12 month leave. Even fathers get paid leave for up to 6 weeks. We need more medical experts influencing these politics. We also need more woman and mothers in politics. It’s mostly men that’s y. They seem to think we r superheroes ( well I can see y they think that). Just really I had no paid leave with my second child at all, but I had job security. My employer was very understanding when I had to leave a little early because I went into premature labor while working. Thank god the hospital was able to stop it. I even got weekly calls from my head manager to check up on me and see how I was doing.

  6. Profile photo of Jeanetta Jeanetta says:

    I can’t believe a country like America doesn’t seem to care about the health and well being of a women and her new baby. I had no idea most jobs didn’t give maternity leave and some of the ones that do don’t have to pay the new mom. My job might suck but I do get 8 weeks of paid maternity leave at 100% pay.

  7. My company only has eight employees so the laws don’t even affect us. I believe the policy is two weeks. From what I understand, the mother is hardly even healed after two weeks. This is just sad for the whole country. =[

  8. Profile photo of Plowje3 Plowje3 says:

    I agree totally with the other comments that the government needs to step it up, but before you judge to harshly remember that we unlike other countries are less socialistic and more capitalistic and things like national maternity leave infringes on the ideal of letting business be business. Also many of these countries have higher tax rates to help pay for these programs that the government provides.

  9. Profile photo of caitlan caitlan says:

    and we are the "FREE" country…. really???

  10. Profile photo of Indiana07 Indiana07 says:

    The US has never been fare.

  11. Profile photo of Ari Ari says:

    Doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  12. Profile photo of McKenzie McKenzie says:

    Wow this really makes you think.

  13. Profile photo of hunter hunter says:

    It’s very discomforting that the united states is supposed to be the best place to live but yet they do not take care of this issue as well as other countries do. Sweden seems to have their mind right.

  14. Profile photo of Gwendolyn Gwendolyn says:

    Wow talk about crazy, I now wish I lived in Sweden 16 months at 80% salary would be fine by me. I’d love to get more than what I am.

  15. Profile photo of Shiloh JohnsonEditor Shiloh Johnson says:

    It’s unfortunate how little we get here in the Unites States. When I heard about what most other countries get for maternity leave, it almost made me want to move!


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