Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave in the United States
The United States is one of only four countries globally, and the only high-income country, without a statutory right to paid maternity leave for employees. In all but a few states, it is up to the employer to decide whether to provide paid leave. This briefing paper summarizes employees’ legal rights in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and adoption, and nursing breaks, and examines how far employers are voluntarily moving to provide paid parental leave beyond basic legal rights. It draws on three data sources: leave benefits offered by Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies,” the Family and Medical Leave Act in 2012 Survey, and the National Compensation Survey. This briefing paper finds that the large majority of the “100 Best Companies” provides paid maternity leave, and many provide paid leave for adoption or paternity leave, although only a small minority provides pay during the full 12 weeks of FMLA leave. Among employers more broadly, a third (35 percent) of employees work for an employer offering paid maternity leave, and a fifth (20 percent) paid paternity leave, according to the FMLA 2012 Survey. According to the National Compensation Survey, only 12 percent of employees in the United States have access to paid leave for any care of family members (newborns, adopted children, or ill children or adults). Lower paid workers are least likely to have access to paid leave. International research suggests that the introduction of a statutory right to paid leave for parents would improve the health and economic situations of women and children and would promote economic growth.