Monday, May 18, 2015

Paid Maternity and/or Paternity Leave

I am a civil rights lawyer and a small business owner. I struggle with the issue of paid maternity and paternity leave. I have no doubt that paid leave would benefit families, mother's, fathers and children. The selfish problem I have centers on who would be required to pay for this leave. I assume that employers would be required to offer paid time for childbirth or adoption. When you have a small business, like mine, having to pay an employee for up to a year with no concomitant work performed by that employee would be a burden.

Yet, I know how important leave to care for a new-born is. I raised two children. When I gave birth to the first child, my son, I was employed by the federal government. I carefully planned to take three months off work, using my sick leave and vacation. After I had been off work for only six weeks, my boss tried to force me to return to work. I resorted to getting a physician's excuse so that I could complete the meager 3 months at home with my son. After I returned to work, I successfully lobbied to reduce my workweek to 4 days at 80% of my former pay. Within two years, I was gone, enrolled in law school.

When I gave birth to my daughter, I was a young, self-employed lawyer. I brought my baby with me to the office and she napped swaddled on my office floor. I did stay away from work for around 3 months, obviously with no pay. I kept my daughter with me as much as possible. Being a sole proprietor has its advantages.

We still hear about parents' dilemma when having a family.  As a society, we are well-served by providing to both mother's and fathers Leave from work to care for their newborn babies. I think many business requirements for professionals with children are barbaric. We should not require parents to sacrifice their children in order to succeed in business.

But, who should pay for this paid leave for new parents?  Most large companies may be able to provide paid parental leave up to a year with little economic detriment. But really small businesses, like mine, would struggle.

I know that America is a rarity because of the lack of mandated paid parental leave. We need to change this. But, in all of the other countries in the world, where paid parental leave exists, who is required to pay for the leave, the businesses or the taxpayers or both?  This is a societal issue. I think we need a societal solution.

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