Friday, October 3, 2008

Family Values: US or EU?

The European Union might soon be a happier place for expectant mothers, as the BBC explains:
The European Commission has proposed extending fully-paid maternity leave from 14 weeks to 18 weeks...

Maternity leave currently varies from 14 weeks in Germany to 18 months in Sweden, with many countries offering less than 18 weeks.

The proposed new rules would guarantee that women in the 27 EU countries would not be sacked during or immediately after maternity leave.

Governments would be free to offer new mothers more time off, but would have to pay them at least as much as sick leave.

Do you know how much fully-paid maternity leave women in the United States are guaranteed? 0 days. None. We're one of the few nations in the world that does not ensure some paid maternity leave. Many countries in Europe and the Americas offer paid paternity leave as well. Not us. If we really wanted to be a nation that valued families and parenthood, we'd be drafting legislation that would bring us more in line with our pro-parenting neighbors. Why aren't we talking about this issue in our presidential debates?

Oh, that's right - 'family values' has nothing to do with valuing families, and everything to do denying rights to same-sex couples and denying information about sex to teens. How naive of me to believe that we could actually care about what's best for working mothers or their babies here in the U.S. of A.

I really wish a question about parental leave had been asked in last night's debates.


Smirking Cat said...

"Family values" is a glossy catch phrase to dress up personal agendas, with no interest to actually showing respect for families at all...a lot like the phrase "best interests of the child" in family court. A smoke screen, at best.

D said...

Paid parental leave is not a good thing.

Employers should pay employees for working.

Staying at home is the direct opposite of working. You basically ask an employer to not only pay you to NOT work, but to also pay a temp in your place.

Paying two salaries for one inexperienced temporary employee?

Not in my company.

Pregnancy is not an illness or a disability. You didn't trip, fall, and get pregnant.

You made a choice to carry it and keep it and have it, you shouldn't be rewarded for adding to the overpopulation problem.

Habladora said...

Well, that highlights the difference in conservative and liberal philosophies pretty nicely. As a liberal, I maintain that laws that grant protections to workers like parental leave, vacation and sick days, the 40 hour work week, and laws against child labor are good for societies - although all of them are probably resented by some employers who feel like they could get more money out of their employees otherwise. You also can't argue that European businesses that must comply with maternity leave laws are doing worse than their US counterparts - business still goes along smoothly in the EU despite their laws defending working mothers, and Europeans' standard of living is as good or better than ours. Better, I'd argue, because they have as much money and more free time for family - and spending.

I'd like to think that 'd' and I both want what's best for society, and simply have different ideas about how to achieve the same ideal. Yet, it seems to me that all the reforms we implemented during the 20th century that protect workers have made the States a nicer place to live and raised everyone's boats. So, arguments against similar reforms seem to me to be prompted by a desire to punish people for perceived 'bad choices' or 'laziness' rather than a genuine desire to create a better society for all of us.

lelah said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think FMLA guarantees your job if you take leave leave (unpaid) for maternity/paternity leave in the US. However, to be marginally compensated, you have to declare short-term disability. Personally, I don't think maternity leave should be considered disability!

Habladora said...

Lelah, you are right that FMLA does ensure 12 weeks of UNPAID maternity leave - for eligible employees (you must have been employed with the company for at least 12 months and clocked 1,250 hours with the company in the year leading up to your leave) who are working for a covered employer (50 or more employees in an industry involved in or affecting commerce). So, we offer less unpaid time than the 14 weeks of paid time that the EU already offers even before passing this new legislation. Sigh.