There are 181 countries that guarantee paid leave from work for new mothers and 81 that guarantee it for new fathers — the United States is not among them. This leaves many new parents choosing between time with their new arrivals and time earning a paycheck, which in many situations is an impossible choice.
The National Partnership for Women & Families in June released its third edition of its “Expecting Better” report, which analyzes state laws designed to help workers in the weeks and months after a child is born or adopted. The U.S. is still considered an outlier among most nations for its support (or lack thereof) of new parents, but the paper cites many improvements since it last issued a report on the topic in 2009, such as new laws improving paid sick leave policies, workplace accommodations for women physically limited by pregnancy, and added break time for women who choose to pump breast milk.
However, just three federal laws exist to protect parents in the workforce: the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which provides 12 weeks of leave to new or expectant parents, and a provision of the 2010 health care reform that expands the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act to protect mothers who want to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.
The report includes a letter grade for each state, based on the protections it provides for new parents, in addition to those mandated by federal law. Only one state, California, received an A- (there were no A’s), but the majority of states fell into the D or F ranges. Thirty-four states (including the District of Columbia) expand upon federal protections in some way, either for private sector or state workers. That leaves 17 states that have done nothing to this effect. They are:
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
The lack of additional protections for new parents can present serious problems families, because the absence of job guarantees and paid leave could put a family’s financial stability in jeopardy (and that’s the last thing people need when they have a new baby). When you’re expecting, do your best to restructure your finances in anticipation of potential income changes and rigorously research the new costs you can expect when adding a family member. Pregnancy and adoption are expensive, and you don’t want a joyous time in your life to turn into financial mayhem or drive you into debt. If you’re worried about how your debt is affecting your credit scores, you can see two of them for free on Credit.com.
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Image: Ingram Publishing