NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Unions Push Paid Maternity Leave

March 3, 1998

The Family and Medical Leave Act passed by Congress in 1993 allows workers to take 12 weeks per year in unpaid leave to care for new babies and to take care of family emergencies. The same political forces which pushed that legislation through, primarily unions, are gearing up to demand employees get paid for the work they did not do while away from the job. And they want fathers to be paid as well.

The media campaign began last month with a 114-page "Maternity at Work" publication from the International Labor Organization, followed by a National Partnership for Women & Families survey.

The proposal has many critics -- not the least being business owners who will be asked to foot some of the costs. Presumably, the costs will eventually be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices and to taxpayers in the form of higher taxes.

  • While the National Partnership survey showed mandated paid leave to be very popular, only 11 percent of women and 15 percent of men said they would be willing to chip in $15 to $20 a month for the privilege.
  • In New Jersey -- which is among five states requiring universal disability insurance to cover paid leave -- workers pay $16 a month so new mothers can get 75 percent of their pay up to a weekly maximum of $364.
  • The ILO claims that 120 nations require paid maternity leave, but most fund their plans with Social Security moneys -- certain to be an unpopular and fiscally prohibitive option in the U.S.

Some U.S. companies already offer paid maternity leave in their benefits plans, but the number is small -- some 2 percent in 1995.

Source: Del Jones, "Drive for Paid Family Leave Raises Cost Issues," USA Today, March 3, 1998.


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