By: Katherine Muniz Jun 27, 2016

Paid Time Off: Comparing Paid Family Leave Programs Around the World

Even the most forward-thinking, organized professional knows that family needs can’t be predicted or confined to a set schedule. Life with babies, children, and dependents follow an uncharted course, and can be hectic to say the least.

However, in the United States, professionals who encounter a prolonged family crisis (planned or unplanned) face the difficult decision of fiscally sacrificing in order to take time off to care for their loved one. Take for instance, maternity leave.

According to the Department of Labor, the United States is the only developed nation without paid maternity leave. Out of 185 countries, the U.S. and 2 other countries (Oman and Papa New Guinea) are the only countries without federal statutes protecting family leave. 

Countries like Bangladesh, China, Ireland, Mexico, the UK, and Vietnam all offer their new mothers paid leave. 

  • Bangladesh – 16 weeks with full payment
  • Canada – Up to 17 weeks with 55% of wages
  • China – 98 days with full payment 
  • Ireland – 26 weeks with social welfare payments of 80% of wages 
  • Iran – 36 weeks of paid leave 
  • Mexico – 12 weeks with full payment 
  • Singapore – 16 weeks with full payment (8 weeks funded by employer, 8 weeks funded by the government)   
  • UK – 40 weeks (first 6 weeks 90% of average weekly earnings, remaining 33 weeks £139.58 or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower)       
  • Vietnam – 26 weeks with full payment 

Instead of paid leave, the United States offers unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. 

FMLA entitles working men and women to take up to 12 weeks off for pregnancy, prenatal care and childbirth; adoption or foster care; or caregiving for oneself or an immediate family member with a serious health condition.

To be eligible, a professional has to work at a company of 50+ people who live within 75 miles of the business, and have a year of employment for that company under their belt. In that year, they must have put in at least 1,250 hours.

According to a 2012 survey, less than 20 percent of all new mothers meet the eligibility requirements for the FMLA. Luckily, states like California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are breaking the mold in passing paid family and medical leave and earned sick day laws.

Recently New York announced a paid family leave program that is the strongest in the nation, offering up to 12 weeks of paid leave when caring for an infant, a family member with a serious health condition, or to relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. The paid leave is funded entirely through a nominal payroll deduction on employees, and upon full implementation in 2021 will provide 67% average of an employee’s weekly wage. Work or family symbol representing the important life choice of raising a family and spending time at home or working at a business to make money with crossroad traffic signs on green grass and sky.

San Francisco made headlines in April for becoming the first city to require private employers to provide paid parental leave to their employees.

California, which already provides partial parental leave (55% of an employee’s wages for up to six weeks funded through employee payroll withholdings), requires private employers in San Francisco with 20+ employees to make up the 45% difference in wages, meaning new parents will be able to collect 100% of their wages for the six weeks. 

According to Attorney Kathleen Harrell-Latham of Loop Legal PLLC, paid sick and safe time for employees are spreading throughout states and cities nationally. Often times, what becomes a state-wide law starts as a city ordinance, morphing to address some of the challenges of employers doing business in multiple cities within the state. “The interest in this issue has certainly been sparked and there are some large organizations that continue to support grass roots to seek such initiatives across the country. However, the biggest challenges to these laws or ordinances in the US is most frequently in the required implementation and infrastructure rather than the underlying idea.” 

“The interest in this issue has certainly been sparked and there are some large organizations that continue to support grass roots to seek such initiatives across the country. However, the biggest challenges to these laws or ordinances in the US is most frequently in the required implementation and infrastructure rather than the underlying idea.” 

In its campaign to drive momentum towards the movement, the Department of Labor’s rallying cry, “It’s Time for America to #LeadOnLeave,” urges the country to make paid family leave a protected right, as 182 other countries have. What do you think? Is it time for America to lead on leave?

As an employer, do you believe your business would suffer if a law came to fruition providing your employees paid family leave in times of crisis or growth? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Category: HR

Katherine is a New York-based digital writer who joined Fingercheck in 2015. She promotes Fingercheck through the power of the written word. She graduated from Fordham University with a B.A. in Communications and Media Studies with a focus on Journalism. Connect with her on LinkedIn

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