4 Countries Do Not Require Paid Parental Leave – Suriname, Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and the United States

Generally, keeping a newborn and at least one parent together for as long as possible after birth helps keep a baby healthy since it’s usually the mother or father who are the first to notice if the child is falling ill.

Almost every country offers some sort of paid maternity leave and many of those also offer at least some form of paid paternity leave at a national level. The U.S. ranks right along with Suriname (very small South American country), Lesotho (an enclave of South Afirca) and Papua New Guinea (Human Development Index ranking of 154) in having no federal laws mandating paid parental leave.

98% of Countries Offer Paid Parental Leave

Some states have enacted their own paid parental leave laws and unlike Lesotho, there is an unpaid leave law on the books (FMLA). In addition, many companies in the U.S. offer either paid or unpaid leave, but the sad fact is that most of the labor force in the U.S. has to choose between earning an income and spending time with their newborn.

While we could easily go on for hours about early developmental skills and schedules are formed in the first few months of a newborn’s life, all of which are bolstered by a parent’s presence, it may help more to take a look at why there is no national paid parental leave law.

In short, paid family leave (especially maternity leave) has a direct impact on the bottom dollar of a business. When the business has to pay an employee while they are out of the office and pay for a replacement, you’re going to find that women aged 18-35 are going to have a much tougher time finding a job. Transferring that responsibility to the government could help, but it would likely result in higher taxes the employer has to pay.

In reality, for big businesses, the retention benefits probably match, if not outweigh the costs of paid family leave, whether they have to pay it themselves, or if the government pays a portion. It’s why so many major companies offer paid family leave, especially for anyone above entry-level, because it’s a huge benefit that helps with retention.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has gone on record as being against paid family leave and they are among the biggest lobbyists in the nation. If the government made paid family leave mandatory, large companies would lose a huge retention benefit. If the leave wasn’t paid for, at least in large part, by the government, it could significantly affect small businesses. Even now, the FMLA doesn’t kick in until a business employs 50 or more individuals in most states.

At some point, there will probably be a bigger push for extended and paid family leave in the United States, it just doesn’t seem as though we are going to get out of the same sentence as Suriname, Papua New Guinea and Lesotho anytime soon.

Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns of First Time Mothers – U.S. Department of Commerce

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