Target: United States Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
Goal: Improve America’s status as among the worst in treatment of new mothers and mandate paid maternity leave for all parents
It may come as a surprise, but a recent report ranked the United States first in poor treatment of new mothers. According to the United Nations’ report America is alone among Western nations in failing to require some sort of paid maternity leave. Even the vast majority of developing countries do so, in line with standards called for by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
While American businesses are required to let new mothers take up to 12 weeks unpaid time off from work, only a handful of states actually pay a portion of their salaries during this crucial bonding time with their newborns. And despite the fact that dozens of countries also guarantee paid time off for new fathers the United States has made no such commitment.
Shauna Olney, chief of the ILO Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch put things plainly: “In order to have gender equality, you must have maternity protection.” Call on labor regulators to guarantee a minimum of 14 weeks paid parental leave for new mothers and fathers alike.
Dear Secretary Perez,
That the United States is considered the worst among all nations for its treatment of new mothers is a crying shame. The UN’s International Labour Organization recently reported that no other Western nation fails to provide working mothers with paid maternity leave. In fact, the only other countries in the world that fail to do so are Oman and Papua New Guinea. When some 70 nations guarantee paid maternity leave to both mothers and fathers there is no excuse for the United States to fall so short of internationally recognized standards.
The 12 weeks of unpaid leave currently mandated by U.S. law fall far short of the ILO’s recommendations, including “cash benefits paid during maternity leave [to] be at least two-thirds of a woman’s previous earnings…for a minimum of 14 weeks.”
New mothers, fathers and infants alike all benefit from this opportunity to bond. Our society as a whole benefits from the strengthened familial ties that are formed in these crucial first weeks. Because the only current mandate is for unpaid time off, low-income families are disproportionately denied this human right as they may not be able to weather the temporary loss of income.
I call on you to implement parental leave guarantees consistent with the ILO’s recommendations, for both new mothers and fathers. To do any less is to deny American families a fundamental benefit currently enjoyed nearly everywhere else in the world.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Mate 3rd Class John E. Woods via U.S. Navy