Time to Change: FMLA Maternity Leave Needs Help.by Elizabeth MacDonald
We can all agree that our country has a horrible way of handling maternity (and paternity!) leave. Another story is making waves, this time it involves a second time mom who learned that she may lose her baby at 20 weeks gestation. She was hospitalized for a month and then sent home to bedrest with hopes of keeping baby in utero for as long as possible. Labor held off for another month before the mother gave birth 8 weeks early. Her baby then spent another month in the NICU. Little did she know that her maternity leave had been ticking away before her eyes. She was under the assumption that she would be able to utilize her twelve week maternity leave from this point on. The reality was, she only had two weeks left.The time off from her company was covered through both short and long-term disability insurance and the Family and Medical Leave Act. She missed a total of nine weeks of work prior to her son’s birth, and during that time was paid only part of her salary, but her job was legally protected. After her son was born, she started a six week term of short-term disability insurance. As he spent four weeks in the NICU, 13 weeks of leave had been exhausted of the FMLA coverage by the time he arrived home. The fact that a mother must now decide between keeping a job and being with her child is outrageous. When you learn that her child's immune system is beyond fragile and that he should be kept home for six months, adds a whole new level to the situation. The day she left her son with a stranger to return to work, she should have still been pregnant. THIS IS NOT OKAY. This mother is now haunted with so many questions: "Should I have chosen to stay home and protect my son’s health, or to work so that we could afford to take him to the doctor? Should I have stayed quietly on bed rest and protected him during my pregnancy, or woken up every morning and logged in to my computer to earn us a few more precious weeks at home later? Did I do what was best or could I have done more? I’ll never know the answer, but these aren’t the questions any parent should have to ask, and hopefully one day, they won’t have to be." We NEED a CHANGE. Several large companies have began to make headway in this troubling issue. Netflix announced (August 2015) that it’s now allowing employees to take unlimited maternity or paternity leave during the first year after their child’s birth or adoption. During that first year, Netflix employees will be able to take off however long they feel they need to. They can return on a full- or part-time basis, and even take subsequent time off later in the year if needed. Netflix will “keep paying them normally,” eliminating the hassle of having to switch to disability leave, the company says. While this is a marvelous start, the trend needs to become a normal part of our society. Even the smallest of companies need to follow suite.