Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Maternity Leave

The growing baby bump at 25 weeks...
Today at work I officially submitted my paperwork with the notification and intentions that I will be taking maternity leave in early 2011. I had obviously told my employer that I am expecting a baby and would be going on leave, but today I took the first step towards making it official in the eyes of my employer and also to start the process to notify the government that I will be on leave. Having not gone through this process in the US, I am not fully aware of the process there, but I do not think it is as "formal" since the government does not pay for one's maternity leave in the US.

There is a big difference here in the UK on maternity leave, in that mothers are entitled to up to ONE YEAR off for leave. In the US, most women I knew took somewhere between 6 - 12 weeks. FLMA and short term disability guarantee one's job in the US for up to 12 weeks while a woman is away, although none of this time has to be paid, although many employers do pay a portion of a salary during this time. There is also a difference in pay in the UK, as there is a standard protocol in that an employer pays the employee 90% of their salary for the first 6 weeks, followed by 9 months at a government stipend (note: Government, which means the employer is reimbursed for this salary while the woman is away) which is somewhere around 420 GBP per month. Compare this scenario to the US, where it is only 12 weeks off and most of the time those 12 weeks are not all paid - there is a big difference.

The differences roughly being stated above, I have to say I am struggling with these two situations. I was very nervous to tell my employer I would be going on leave because as an employer myself, I feel a full year away from the job leaves the team and company in a bit of a lurch. They might need to bring in a replacement for me, would have to train someone new and then by the time that new person is fully up and running, I would be back from my leave and all that time and energy has just been spent on someone else who is not continuing with the job, as I would be back to take it over. And then of course what happens to women and employers when a woman has multiple children back-to-back and comes back from maternity leave for a few months, only to leave for a full year again?

However, from a new mother's perspective, I cannot say I think 6-12 weeks is near long enough to be with a newborn. As an employer, do I really want an employee back at work who is overly tired from a newborn not sleeping, feeling guilty about leaving a little baby with a nanny or in daycare, and therefore might not be fully focused back on her job? Probably not. However, from the work perspective, 6-12 weeks is a bit of a blip on the radar and others can help punt to cover the woman's work load while she is away for the short amount of time....

I realize one of the big differences here is that the government is backing the system here in the UK, which is true in so many of their services, including healthcare, benefits, etc. whereas the burden really falls on the employer in the US and is not always a given requirement that an employer needs to honor in America.

I am not sure which situation I agree with more, but I am sure I may not know until I have the baby and am on leave for myself. Only time and experience will answer this question for me.

1 comment:

Iota said...

I think it's great you're so open-minded.

One thing that the US system assumes is that the mother will work pretty much until the day she gives birth. But lots of mothers find the last few weeks of pregnancy pretty exhausting. There really isn't any slack at all in the US system.

I know a teacher, whose maternity leave time was up 3 weeks before school was out for the summer. I assumed the school would say to her not to bother to come back for those 3 weeks - given that she'd then be off for 12 weeks. But no, they wanted her back in the classroom for those 3 weeks.