Skip to main content

Is maternity leave where it needs to be?

Maternity Leave – has it changed over the years?
 I have two children, one 30, and the other 28 and, other than one 10 month extended holiday before we got married and two three month maternity leaves, I have been employed.
When viewing my personal maternity leave, the major difference was the comparison between the corporate and small business approach to women going on maternity leave.
It amazes me now, but when I had my daughter, I landed up having to manage a rather challenging situation.
I had a company car and was working for an international company.
As I was planning to go back to work, it hadn't occurred to me that they would take the car away, but about a week into my maternity leave, I received a phone call from my boss, who said he was going to pop around and collect the car.
I still didn't get it, when he arrived with one of my colleagues, I guess I thought he was taking it for a few days.
I  was very surprised when he informed me that as I was not working, he was re-allocating the car.
I do understand and appreciate the business logic behind his decision, but it was not discussed with me at any time prior to my maternity leave.   Not to mention that I discovered that the young men doing army camps of up to 3 months were able to keep their cars!
Three months of maternity leave ensued, with no vehicle and we were not living in an area with easy access to public transport!
As a point of interest, the company car was part of the package, we were not given a choice of our own car and a travel allowance.    I did offer to pay all costs during the 3 months, but this was not accepted.
The next time I had a baby I had my own car and a new job...
In a small business, things were much more flexible.  I was able to work at home up till the birth, and then get the full 3 months after the baby was born.  I repaid that flexibility by assisting with events during the time off.
So have times changed?
Certainly, in South Africa, four months paid maternity leave is now offered at a number of companies, and Unemployment Insurance is also available, although I hear that, often, by the time you get it, you are back at work, so no change there!
The average paternity leave in South Africa is nowhere close to maternity leave, leaving the primary caregiver of a dual working family as the mother, even if the parents would like to make a different choice.
Frequently, babies are born before women have reached senior levels, so the challenges of continuing an upward career path are very real.
Networking with women entrepreneurs has also strongly indicated that many women owned businesses started because, as mothers, they needed more flexibility than the corporate world could give them.
It is true that there are many options for skilled, professional, financially stable women which allow them to continue working while raising their children, should they wish to do so, however, there is a vast group of women who have to work, but do not have access to local, affordable care giving.  
Many conversations around this topic have led me to believe that child care issues remain a global problem for mothers who work.   Of course, there are fathers that are the primary care giver and they face the same challenges.
Interestingly, the US allows 12 weeks unpaid leave for new mothers (See link below), and, at the opposite end, Sweden offers 480 days of paid parental leave split between the parents. (See link below).
While staying at home to rear children is the first choice for many parents, it is not an option for significant numbers.  
There are companies, and countries, that are doing great work to ensure that women are able to care for their babies, as well as hold down a job.   But there are a lot that are not.
My view is that we need to continue to treat this issue as urgent and keep it top of mind when discussing gender concerns in the workplace.

Links, References and Notes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternity_leave_in_the_United_StatesCurrent state

http://www.women24.com/CareersAndMoney/AtWork/10-best-and-worst-countries-for-maternity-leave-20150708

https://sweden.se/society/gender-equality-in-sweden/

Federal legislation

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, signed into law during President Bill Clinton's first term, guaranteed maternity leave to many new mothers across the nation. It mandated a minimum of 12 weeks unpaid leave to mothers for the purpose of attending to a newborn or newly adopted child.[8] However, the act did not attain universal coverage as it included several limiting stipulations. In order to receive maternity leave, employees must work in a firm of 50 or more employees, maintain employment with the same business for 12 months and have accumulated at least 1,250 working hours over those 12 months.

Note

Thank you for reading Teryl@Work.   Should you wish to use any of the material, please acknowledge this blog as the source.


email:      tschroenn@accsys.co.za
twitter:   @TerylSchroenn

Popular posts from this blog

Thinking of leaving - should you discuss it with your manager?

The exit interview is not the time to tell your manager that you would have stayed if.....   When you are serious about your career, and really enjoy your job, except for one key component, take the time to talk before you resign.

While sometimes the grass is greener, more often than not you just inherit new issues at a new company.

It is a difficult labour market in South Africa right now, there is a skills shortage, and yet there are millions of people without jobs.   Working for a stable company, with people you like, and a job you enjoy is important, and yet there are often those frustrations that give you itchy feet.

In your current position, your manager might really want to keep you, and be very interested in finding out what would make you a happier, more productive, employee.   It is also sometimes much easier to have that conversation with somebody you already know, than have it in your first weeks in a new position.

When you know you have choices, as well as know that you …

Agile workers & workspaces - a new way of working..

Being an agile worker is still a work in progress…
Is flexibility now a reality in the workplace?And is it really working? We keep renaming it – remote, activity based and agile work being some of the current terms. The assumption of control over one’s own time and deliverables does look like a great way to work and live, and it seems to be is a high priority for those entering the business world. There is also the development of the agile work space, where people come to the office each day, but don’t have a fixed work area.We used to call it hot desking back in the day and it met with mixed success.Today, office designers have started to create work spaces which are intended to encourage innovative thought, cross departmental collaboration and improved productivity. My research indicates that the mix of engaged and disengaged employees in an open plan workspace does not always have the desired effect of the positive workers influencing the culture.In fact, a case study of a senior execut…

Setting Budgets and Targets

Does too much of a stretch impact motivation?    Over many years of setting (and trying to achieve) targets and budgets, getting the balance right between stretch and motivation remains a challenge.

I love Jim Collins and Jerry Porras and their BHAGs in their great book, Built to Last, but if the goals are seen as unachievable too early in the business year, what then?

Is there a way for businesses to achieve success without budgets and targets in place?

Two old favourites " You can only manage what you can measure" and "People do what managers measure" suggest that they can't.  I am sure there must be successful businesses with different methodologies, but most of us need to work towards something.

With that in mind, I think there needs to be stretch, and there needs to be a sense of achievability.

Why would you race against Usain Bolt unless you think you could win?

The same goes for budgets and targets, people need to believe they are possible.

So how do you…