Paid Maternity Leave: Wage Disparity
Maternity Leave Policy in the US falls behind other industrialized countries in regards to compensation, duration and employer support. Despite the historical efforts from feminists to achieve equality in the workplace at the expense of forgoing maternity leave privileges, women are still suffering from wage inequality in the workplace. Studies demonstrate that maternity leave policies do not widen the wage disparity gap as long as a wage structure exists that will achieve egalitarian income distribution. As a result, wage disparity can be minimized and maternity leave can be improved if we impose a tax on men to subsidize both income for new mother’s while on leave and the cost to employers who have to replace those employees with temporary workers.
Maternity Leave in the United States, is perhaps the worse policy amongst all other industrialized countries. The average maternity leave in other peer countries is 16 weeks with pay and with job security upon return (Kamerman & Gatenio, 2002). In the United States there are no national paid policies for maternity leave and many women refrain from taking leave because of financial constraints, lack of employer support, and a fear of losing opportunities for promotions. A study published in the Academy of Management Journal (January 2000) compared 523 managerial-level level employees who have taken leave within two years versus employees who have not and found the following results for leave-takers: 18% less likely to have been promoted, on average 8% lower pay-raise and lower performance ratings from their employers (“Family Leave,” 2005). The fact that the burden falls almost entirely on women in taking care of their newborns, they become more costly to employers since it is more likely that they will be taking leave. According to the Department of labor, almost 46 times as many women as men are on parental leave in any given time (“Family Leave”, 2005). For this reason mainly, women are paid less than men in the United States. In order to resolve the problem, the U.S. should offer paid Maternity Leave to women by taxing men to offset wage disparity between men and women in the work force.
Family and Medical Leave Act
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act was signed in the Untied States in 1993 to meet the needs of the workforce that has been dramatically changed in last few decades as more women have entered the workplace (Harvard Law Review, 2009). The FMLA is intended to facilitate balancing work and family responsibilities. Parents can take advantage of the leave to take care and bond with the newborn without the fear of losing their job. The policy entitles parents to take a 12-week unpaid leave only if they are eligible. Eligibility is only granted to those employed by businesses with 50 employees or more. “There remain 45 percent of workers who are not covered by the Act” (Kamerman & Gatenio, 2002, p.3). Prior to the FMLA, the employee could only take leave at the employers’ discretion. Request for legitimate leave can be denied and if the employee took leave without employers’ authorization, dismissal is the most probable consequence. One must wonder why it is that the U.S. has fallen behind other countries in improving maternity leave policies. After World War I, many countries in Europe wanted to increase birth rates and women’s participation in the labor market so they encouraged this by offering women the incentive of paid leave to take care of their newborns without the fear of losing their jobs. As the years progressed, feminists in Europe fought for better maternity leave benefits which resulted in longer leaves and higher payments. Consequently, the wage disparity between men and women in the workplace widened. In the U.S. feminists took a different approach. Since...