Baby’s Effect on Your Paycheck And Your Job

Do you know how maternity leave works? I thought I did: You get some time off. Some of it is paid. Most of it is unpaid. And then you go back to your job and leave the baby at home or at a daycare or whatever and proceed to be a woman who works, and also a mother (“having it all,” in the parlance of our times).

This apparently is not how it actually works most of the time. This is “THE MATERNITY LEAVE MYTH.”

The Family Medical Leave Act guarantees a woman’s job for 12 weeks after she gives birth—but only if she’s worked at the company for 12 months and if the company where she’s worked has over 50 employees. A lot of women end up losing their jobs, even in cases when their jobs should be protected (the Post story has some tales of women pushed out of their jobs after maternity leave because bosses never returned any of their calls).

IN ADDITION, none of that 12 weeks is paid leave, unless the woman has banked sick or vacation time. This isn’t how it is in Canada and Europe, surprise. In fact, the U.S. is among only five countries who don’t offer guaranteed paid leave for women on maternity leave. (In our company: Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea.)

So! Baby =/= paid vacation. GOOD TO KNOW.

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27 Comments / Post A Comment

Nick (#1,548)

You deserve some sort of award for picking pictures to go with articles. This one is just so perfect, again.

She should get a baby because PARENTHOOD IS ITS OWN REWARD/VACATION.

kellyography (#250)

I have a few Canadian friends that have recently had or are going to have babies, and their parental leave system is OFF THE HOOK. At the very least, you get 17 weeks of parental leave, and at the most (generally most employed people) you get AN ENTIRE YEAR. Plus there are paid benefits (like American Unemployment Insurance) where you can get paid about half of your normal working wage for more than half the time you’re out. Plus, dads can get paternity leave if you both want to be home with the baby. I just…can’t. I don’t even want a baby, but if I were Canadian, it would be that much more feasible.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@kellyography it’s still not enough incentive for me. If you have a good job, it works out well (through your employer and EI – our unemployment). I have a sneaking suspicion that if you have a less good job, part time hours, or are a student (friends’ experiences assure me that the latter is true) it is much much harder. Also if you are in some fields. weirdly, a female engineer friend, seems to have worked fine, female academic friends… now that’s another story…

selenana (#673)

@kellyography I don’t even really want a baby, but I kind of want a Canadian baby.

cmcm (#267)

@kellyography The UK system sounds pretty similar to Canada, I think. People generally seem to be gone for a million years when they have babies here (but they do come back).

You guys… America is the WORST.

highjump (#39)

I knew that the US was one of five countries that did not have paid parental leave, and that Papau New Guinea was one of them because of my favorite West Wing character – Amy Gardner.

honey cowl (#1,510)

When I was in college I was a gender studies minor. So I am all too familiar with this business. And I just. can’t. even… Ugh.

Megano! (#124)

I had no idea how Canadian maternity leave worked, but looks like we win again. For now.

@Megano! the only thing I know for an anecdotal fact* is that if you are a single mother in quebec, the government pretty much funds that as a full-time job.
* i do not know this for a fact, it’s just a thing i heard once about a friend of a friend

Kate (#1,408)

Here is the other great thing about Canadian maternity leave — it is GREAT for the job market. Because when you go on maternity leave the company hires someone to take your place for the year. So if you are a new graduate or you are looking to change careers it is a GREAT way to get your foot in the door! Viva la maternity leave!

@Kate AND it’s a lot nicer for coworkers, because instead of having coworker’s pick up the new mom’s workload for 3 months, most companies I’ve seen will hire a new person to do the work for the year.

@Kate I never thought about it as being good for the job market but you’re so right. That’s how I got my current job. I was hired on for a one year mat leave position, then luckily just as that year was ending a similar permanent position came up and I was able to get that because I already essentially had a year of training.

deepomega (#22)

I will repeat myself once more: All paid leave should be banished to the depths of hell, and replaced with Federal guarantees that you can take XX days off without getting fired for it. Maybe have a tax credit that throws more money at new parents (not just mothers) which they can use to pay for time off, or buy shit they need, or whatever.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@deepomega
The Aus govt has this – it’s called the baby bonus and it’s controversial as fuck.

JitterBug (#1,972)

@deepomega Why is paid leave a bad thing and why does it have to be exclusive of a federal guarantee that you can take xx days off without getting fired? Why not have both?

JitterBug (#1,972)

@TARDIStime But only some parents are eligible for the baby bonus because it’s means tested. There’s also the Parental Leave Scheme, so most parents should be eligible for some form of payment but it will vary depending on income and employment status.

deepomega (#22)

@JitterBug This is a thing I argue a lot on these comment threads, but basically there are two types of paid leave. The most common kind pays you back for unused days off at the end of the year – this isn’t really paid leave, it’s just deferring payment till the end of the year. You’re not ACTUALLY getting paid for the days you miss, since you’d get paid more if you didn’t take them.

The less common kind DOESN’T pay you back at the end of the year – in which case the money you get for days you don’t work is just shifted around from your salary. In other words it’s not like the company you work for magically creates money out of thin air to pay you for those days.

All of this benefits the company, not the employee. It gives them more knowledge of how much actual total compensation they are paying than the employee does. (E.g. do you know how much money your vacation days are “worth” if you just worked them instead of using them?) I want to shift to a “total compensation” model of pay, where you get a big pile of cash, and federal guarantees that if you take a vacation day or a sick day your boss can’t fire you. (Up to a certain number of days off, obviously.)

JitterBug (#1,972)

@deepomega The model that you’re describing is different from what I’m used to, so maybe it’s exclusive to the US? Here in Australia, full-time employees are guaranteed a minimum of four weeks per year paid holiday and 10 days paid sick leave. It’s part of the salary package, so it’s not like it’s ‘bonus’ pay, just a government-required agreement between the employee and the employer. It works for the employer (rested employees are more productive) and for the employee (yay! paid for taking holidays and don’t have to worry about paying the bills if you get sick!). If anything, this system benefits the employee because, if they don’t use their holiday in the year it’s acrrued, they get paid at whatever rate they’re working at at the time of taking holiday rather than the rate they accrued it (so it reflects any pay rises).

Yes, the government should have protections in place for employees so they can’t be dismissed unfairly.I still don’t see how that’s related to paid leave or how paid leave inherently benefits the employer.

deepomega (#22)

@JitterBug What you just described matches my first kind of paid leave, but with the gov’t mandating it. My point is that it is not actually paid leave. Paid leave would be “being paid for not working” – since you get paid at the end of the year for each day off you didn’t use, you are in fact not getting paid for the days you miss. It’s just an accounting gimmick. And generally, accounting gimmicks benefit employers, not employees. (For instance, they get any interest that your unused vacation pay accrues, they get to know exactly how much those days off are worth while the employee has to calculate it, etc.)

To be clear, I think people should take time off! But if you’re not getting paid for it, I think it should be clear up front what you’re not getting paid. E.g. each day off, you lose $XXX. That way the employee can make informed decisions about their work schedule.

JitterBug (#1,972)

@deepomega But didn’t I say that?

“It’s part of the salary package, so it’s not like it’s ‘bonus’ pay, just a government-required agreement between the employee and the employer.”

I just don’t understand the opposition to a system that benefits both employers and employees? It’s not an accounting gimmick but a strategy to mean that employees are required to take breaks, which is good for both them and the business, but are not out of pocket for it.

” To be clear, I think people should take time off! But if you’re not getting paid for it, I think it should be clear up front what you’re not getting paid. E.g. each day off, you lose $XXX. ”

That’s not accurate for the system that I described. Your salary package might be $50,000 a year, and that $50,000 a year includes a maximum of 48×5 days of work. So every day you are getting paid the same, but some days you work and others you don’t. There is a pre-arranged designation of what the salary includes, so you’re not at a disadvantage if you take holidays. It’s not costing you money, but is built into the original amount.

Are we talking is circles because I honestly just don’t understand your opposition at all?

deepomega (#22)

@JitterBug OK, I misunderstood, sorry! When you said “If anything, this system benefits the employee because, if they don’t use their holiday in the year it’s acrrued, they get paid at whatever rate they’re working at at the time of taking holiday” I thought that meant you were paid at the end of the year for any days off you still have left. Now I understand you!

So this is “real” paid vacation, but it still proves my point. The money you get on days you don’t work doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from your employer, who sets it aside for you to use on days you don’t work. That means you, as an employee, don’t know what your employer ACTUALLY pays you – especially if (as in the US) the number of days you can take varies from employer to employer. Basically, I am opposed to letting companies hide the dollar value of their employees behind anything, including paid leave, retirement plans, company vehicles, etc., because all of these make it harder for the employee to know what they are actually costing the company they work for.

JitterBug (#1,972)

@deepomega Oh, I see where you’re coming from – the kind of agreement I described is not common in the US. I agree that what a salary includes should be all clearly stated in the salary package. Even casual employees here have a 15% surcharge built into their pay to account for the lack of payments from their employer should they need sick and holiday leave.

A rested, healthy employee is the most productive employee and business should realise that rather than incentivising employees to not take leave or breaks.

The rule of thumb I was given in uni was that the “real” cost of an employee is 30% more than their salary once you take into account all extra payments. I don’t think it matters what the cost to the business is for you as long as you and your employer agree on a level of payment for your work that you both are satisfied with.

deepomega (#22)

@JitterBug But my point is that the 30% rule of thumb (which I was taught too) is not accurate, and the company benefits from knowing *exactly* what they’re paying. Imagine if you are laid off and looking for new work, and you only knew what you were getting paid with like a 20% margin of error. You wouldn’t know whether the salary you asked potential new employers for was too high or too low. But THEY would! That asymmetry is what I want to avoid.

JitterBug (#1,972)

@deepomega I’d suggest that a company that doesn’t know exactly the cost of its employees is a company that will be in a lot of financial trouble. Companies should know that information – it’s pretty important for a business!

Do you think it would be a fairer workplace environment if companies had to disclose the actual cost to them of employees? I think other practices would be more beneficial for employees – like all employees disclosing their salaries so you’d know if you were getting paid fairly compared to your colleagues, or for systems to be set up so salaries can be compared across companies within industries. I don’t actually think it makes any difference what the cost of employing you is to a company – it doesn’t give you more bargaining power if you go to a new job interview and say “I got paid $75k a year at my last job but it cost the company $97k to employ me”.

Sorry, I still think I’m missing your point! Maybe I should bow out of the discussion…

deepomega (#22)

@JitterBug Well my point is that if there is no such thing as “benefits,” then you don’t have to ask “will this retirement contribution be worth taking a hit to my salary?” or “will having more vacation days be worth not getting more money for overtime?” or whatever. It simplifies it to a single number. That’s my goal!

JitterBug (#1,972)

@deepomega I see! That’s pretty much how it is here for full-time positions already, so I think that’s where the confusion comes from.

It’s always interesting to see how different things are done in different places! That’s one of the reasons I love reading the Billfold.

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