Unpaid Maternity Leave: Do Women Really Matter Less?

Recently, John Oliver brought up the topic of paid maternity leave in the United Staes on his popular show “Last Week Tonight”.


There are only 2 countries in the world without unpaid time off for new mothers— and the United States is one. 

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New mothers are not always guaranteed any paid time off after giving birth at all here in the States. However, you can always take unpaid time off to tend to your new little one. This leads to a difficult choice for some; stay working, and miss important firsts and cause possible stress to you and your baby, or take the unpaid time off and cause unneeded stress due to missed paychecks, while caring for a newborn.

The Family and Medical Leave Act lets you take the unpaid time off— with restrictions of course.  

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To qualify, you have to have worked or the same employer for 12 months, have logged at least 1,250 hours in the past year (which is an average of 24 hours per week), and work for a company with more than 50 employees within 75 miles of your location. This also doesn’t apply to contractors, freelancers, or employees at small businesses fewer than 50 workers.


That seems to really cut out a lot of working mothers, doesn’t it?

In 2013 NPR reported that some 40 percent of the workforce is not eligible.

Fathers would like family leave as well; sadly, the long-held thought that women should take care of the children while men work is still holding true. This makes the idea of paternity leave but a dream for most.

Not every family works in the traditional sense. Sometimes the mother is the main source of income, sometimes its equally split. Sometimes it’s two mothers, two fathers, etc.

Why are we still stuck with archaic restrictions?


Lobbyists and legislators. 


Using scare tactics and fear mongering, the lawmakers in 1993 who discussed the ideas for FMLA over complicated everything. “…This bill will cost jobs”, said Rep. Thomas Ewig, “This bill is unfair, anti-business, anti-growth, invasive, deathly expensive”, so said Rep. Tom DeLay.


Did FMLA cause all the destruction predicted? The answer is short and simple: No. Other things may have caused issues, but not FMLA.


What happens next?


With the help of active mothers and their supporters, we can help change these ridiculously outdated practices. Mothers need the time off to care for the new life. They also need the pay to provide the care, and by not allowing paid maternity leave, we are only damaging the future generations.

Want more? Read the President’s statement from FMLA’s 20th anniversary.



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