First, a quick history lesson:
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires employers to provide 12 weeks of job protection and unpaid leave for qualifying medical and family reasons. Health benefits must also be maintained. We bet you already know that the US ranks last among developed countries when it comes to paid leave. Every other developed nation has taken this on and have some form of mandated leave... but that's not exclusively what this post is about. If you want to review some well-researched information, give this a close look: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/26/u-s-lacks-mandated-paid-parental-leave/
Understanding our baseline is basically... nothing, the optimists in us see a ton of opportunity and room for improvement. And yet, in as recent months as those leading to the US elections, the notion of paid leave was trotted out as a largely non-partisan issue... something we can all agree on! Promises were made. How and to what extent changes would be made were certainly not well defined, but hey, the conversation was a start.
I think we can all agree that this campaign discussion has fizzled quickly since the election. It is one topic no one seems to be talking about.
More and more, it feels clearer that people, and women especially, are advocating for change themselves, taking their hopes for the future and finding ways to incite action. No one can wish a fix into existence, and given the dismal inadequacy of FMLA, perhaps we should create the model ourselves while still pushing for federal and state level changes. Select corporations all over the country are beginning to improve their Family Leave and Return-to-Work policies, realizing the inherent value without a mandate. The wider this action spreads, the more pressure there will be on other businesses (and eventually the government) to catch up and keep up.
Look, we wish we didn’t have the global embarrassment that is FMLA. We wish the federal government would wave a 1 year paid leave wand, though the best companies will still need to step up with great Return-to-Work policy and ensure inclusion is the norm. We choose to feel heartened and encouraged by activists and leaders of companies who are out there talking about the importance of leave, who embody the change we want to see. When Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook CEO, takes two months off to be with his newborn daughter and adjust to his new role of father, the world pays attention. Putting our own work into change will bring success. People all over this country agree these improvements are necessary. It's a matter of when. For now, we all have to keep speaking up. What was your Return-to-Work like post-baby? We'd love to hear.