The Fight For Better Maternity Leave

Is There Hope?

It's one thing to be empathetic to your coworker; it's quite another for "empathy" to be state-mandated. In 2004, the state of California expanded its state disability-insurance program to cover family leave. This means that taxpayers, instead of employers, foot the bill -- a plan that some argue should be adopted by other states. Most employees are deducted only a few dollars per paycheck, says Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, cofounder and executive director of MomsRising, an advocacy group working to improve family economic security and end discrimination against mothers. (Just 1.1 percent of taxable wages go to the fund, which covers medical disability as well as family leave; the max any employee contributes to this fund is $1,026 a year.) And the money can't be used to plug California's budget holes. "When we're building a nation, an economy, no one entity should have to shoulder all of the costs," says Rowe-Finkbeiner. "Sharing that is important. Everybody has a mother; no one is exempt."

There is a business case for stronger leave policies too. "Turnover is not only expensive in terms of rehiring and retraining," says Law. "It hurts morale when people come and go, and intellectual capital is lost. There is real, intrinsic value in having people stay." He supports his team of 210 employees by providing six weeks of paid leave to all mothers and fathers, including those who adopt (sadly, this brief amount of paid time off makes the company a leader among U.S. businesses). "I don?t think employers cut back on benefits to be cruel or miserly," says Law. "They just aren't thinking through the hidden costs of not keeping your culture strong."'

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