Corporate Social Responsibility WORKMOM

Published on April 29th, 2011 | by Emily DeMasi

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Can we get Maternity Leave on the CSR Agenda?

I am a bit biased.  Being 30 weeks pregnant myself, my thoughts are turning to what happens after this little person enters the world.  How long will I be able to stay home with him, breast-feed him, bond with him and generally adjust to this new way of life?  As I look at my options, both legal and complimentary from my employers; I am left wanting for support, both emotionally and financially, during this huge life transition.  I am not alone. 

“A 2008 report from the Families and Work Institute indicated that 16% of companies with at least 100 employees provide full pay during maternity leave. This is down from 27% in 1998,” reported Forbes.com.  I was surprised to find out that;

the U.S. and Australia are the only developed economies in the world that provide no paid maternity leave. France, Singapore and Austria all offer four months’ paid maternity leave benefits, and Germany offers 14 weeks. In the U.K., a woman receives 90% of her salary for up to a year off with her baby. Swedish mothers hit the jackpot with 480 days off at 80% of their salary, followed by their counterparts in Serbia and Denmark with a full year off at full pay. Even in Gambia, Somalia and Vietnam new mothers receive at least three months’ paid maternity leave (Heidi Brown, Forbes.com, 05/03/2009).

While gender equality and diversity are issues rising to the top of CSR and Sustainability agendas, it seems that maternity leave is a subject still largely ignored by most companies.

Even a search for “maternity leave” on the White House Council on Women and Girls, which was created by President Obama and specifically tasked with ensuring that all government agencies include the welfare of females when formulating policy; a priority of which was to evaluate and develop “policies that establish a balance between work and family,” yielded zero results.

Based on data from the United Nations, the US offers less maternity leave than 60% of the countries in the UN’s 180 country sample.  A more recent report cited by Reuters.com stated that out of a 190 country sample, just three countries clearly offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave — Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States. 

To really embrace diversity and take advantage of the immeasurable talent held by many American women in the workplace (not to mention a competitive advantage internationally), is it not time to take maternity leave, and dare I mention paternity leave,  more seriously in the United States? 

If we cannot get maternity leave on the federal agenda, should its place be on the CSR agenda?  Weigh in inspiredeconomist readers – I’d like to know where you stand on this issue.

Image Credit:  Gilzee via Flickr under CC license.





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About the Author

Emily McKinin DeMasi is a 2011 MBA/ MA Public Policy candidate and Peace Corps Fellow at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her thesis work concerns Corporate Social Responsibility in the United States. She also works as a Research Fellow at Bridgeway Capital, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in downtown Pittsburgh. Emily has worked as an Associate in a Private Equity Placement Firm in NY and as a Water and Sanitation Volunteer in Ivory Coast, West Africa. She hopes to combine her business background with her passion for development and inspire others in the fields of Sustainability and CSR.



2 Responses to Can we get Maternity Leave on the CSR Agenda?

  1. CS says:

    I think it’s fair to put maternity leave on the agenda if those who decide not to have children are given an equal opportunity to have paid leave. Having a child is a choice, very few people in the US are being forced to bear children. On the other hand, caring for an ill/disabled child, an elderly parent or grandparent, or a sick/disabled spouse rarely is a choice. I, for example, am responsible for my 91 year old grandmother, because I am the only child of her only child who passed away. I didn’t really have a choice in that. But there is no company that I’m aware of that will pay for the time I have to spend to take her to doctor’s appointments and other care. Although I am struggling financially being self-employed, with the amount of time I spend taking her to appointments, if I got a traditional job, all my vacation and sick time would be spent taking her to appointments (and I would still probably have a deficit, especially if an emergency happened).
    And to be honest, I would rather see companies give paid time off to employees who have to take care of children who become seriously ill/disabled, then maternity leave.
    So, maybe a better question to ask is how do we get more work/life balance issues on the CSR agenda, whatever that means to employees, whether that is maternity leave for some people, elder care or spousal care for some, time to work on creative arts, time to give back to the community, etc.

    • Emily DeMasi says:

      I completely agree CS – elder care is equally as necessary and important as child care – as is caring for a sick and/or disabled spouse, child and/or partner. Maternity leave is the just the first hurdle on life/work balance issues that I need to overcome in my own life. Wishing you and your grandmother the best and hoping we both gain company support for our issues in the near future. Thank you for sharing your story and comments.

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