It was just another day at my office when I walked into the examination room and my pregnant patient from Germany launched into a discussion of medical leave benefits afforded new parents in developed nations. Unfortunately, the United States ranks near the bottom. Although I’ve heard this several times before, it’s finally clicked that unless we collectively work to change this, it will never change.
As a Silicon Valley obstetrician and gynecologist, I have delivered hundreds of women from all over the world who relocated to this area because of the myriad of opportunities for professional growth afforded here. Likewise, I have delivered several homemakers who relocated to this area due to better opportunities for their families. Over the years, it has become clear to me that in order to increase production, maintain work-life balance, decrease stress levels, and approach parity between the sexes we need to revise the Family Medical Leave Act.
In 1993, President Clinton signed the United States Family Medical Leave Act. One of the areas it covers is job protected leave to parents at the birth or adoption of a child. Unfortunately, the law applies only to parents whose company employs more than 50 people. Additionally, there is a limit of twelve weeks protected leave per parent. It must be completed within one year. It is unpaid. Several states have modified the employer threshold and provided compensation. However, it isn’t nearly enough. We can do better.
Advances towards accomplishing a better leave policy have already been made in several other countries such as Germany and Norway. Germany allows a maximum of 14 months paid leave that can be taken by the mother or father individually or jointly. There is no employer number limitation. The parents are eligible until the child’s third birthday. Parents are compensated 2/3 the income for a minimum of 300 euro ($317.83 dollars) and a maximum of 1800 euro ($1906.95 dollars). At the conclusion of the leave the employer must offer a job of equal standing. In Norway, a maximum of 59 weeks paid leave may be taken by the mother or father individually or jointly. Similarly, there are no employer number limitations. The parents are eligible to take the leave until the child’s third birthday. Parents are compensated 100% of their income for 49 weeks or 80% of income for 59 weeks up to six times the national basic insurance amount.
Here in Silicon Valley, several tech companies have made strides towards improving the lives of those choosing to have a baby. Apple and Google provide at least 18 weeks paid parental leave. Every day I learn about other perks given to new moms and dads by various companies. These include but are not limited to delivered meals and childcare. It’s time for our country to learn what these tech companies have already discovered. A better medical leave act will increase production, retention, and overall health. Please write your suggestions for a national change to our medical leave act. I’ll start with…
It’s time for a national family medical leave act with no employer limitations.
United States Department of Labor. (n.d.). Family and Medical Leave Act. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/
German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. (2015). Parental Allowance and Parental Leave. Retrieved from http://www.bamf.de/EN/Willkommen/KinderFamilie/Elterngeld/elterngeld-node.html
Norwegian Labor and Welfare Organization (NAV). (2015, March 12). Parental Benefit. Retrieved from https://www.nav.no/en/Home/Benefits+and+services/Relatert+informasjon/Parental+benefit.353588.cms I} ��+