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What Working Mother magazine won’t tell you, part 1

September 27, 2007 | Ethics,Family,Journalism,PR,Work,Working Mother


The Work, Family, and Equity Index, published by the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University and the Project on Global Working Families. The report studied and compared 177 countries, finding that the United States does well regarding an equitable right to work and guaranteeing time-and-a-half for overtime. The United States, however, lags behind all high-income countries and even many medium- and low-income countries, especially regarding 1) leave around childbearing, 2) breastfeeding support, 3) work hours and 4) leave for illness and family care.

Of 173 countries studied for this topic, 169 countries offer guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks paid leave. Although in a number of countries many women work in the informal sector, where these government guarantees do not always apply, the United States guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force, leaving it in the company of only three other nations: Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.

  • Fathers in 66 countries get paid paternity leave or have a right to paid parental leave; 31 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks of paid leave. The United States guarantees fathers neither paid paternity nor paid parental leave.
  • At least 107 countries protect working women’s right to breastfeed; in at least 73 of these the breaks are paid. The United States does not guarantee the right to breastfeed.
  • At least 137 countries mandate paid annual leave; 121 countries guarantee two weeks or more each year. The United States does not.
  • At least 134 countries have laws that fix the maximum length of the workweek. The United States does not have a maximum length of the workweek or a limit on mandatory overtime per week.
  • While only 28 countries have restrictions or prohibitions on night work, 50 countries have government-mandated evening and night wage premiums. The United States neither restricts nor guarantees wage premiums for night work.
  • At least 126 countries require employers to provide a mandatory day of rest each week. The United States does not.
  • At least 145 countries provide paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses, with 136 providing a week or more annually. More than 81 countries provide sickness benefits for at least 26 weeks or until recovery. The United States provides only unpaid leave for serious illnesses through the FMLA, which does not cover all workers.
  • At least 49 countries guarantee leave for major family events such as marriage or funerals; in 40 of these countries, leave for one or both of these family events is paid.

According to its 2004 report:

  • The United States is tied with Ecuador and Suriname for 39th place regarding enrollment in early childhood care and education for 3- to 5-year-olds. Almost all European countries perform better and a range of developing and transitioning countries — despite being poorer — had higher enrollment rates than the United States.
  • Employer-sponsored childcare in the United States is available to only one in eight employees.

It is legal in most states for employers to discriminate against American mothers.

While illegal, American women deal with pregnancy discrimination every day. (Just in case you don’t think it happens, here’s a lawsuit filed by an employee who was fired in December 2005, two weeks after telling her employer she was pregnant.)

The only way for American women to get a chance at guaranteed affordable, high-quality child care is to join the military.

Women still earn less than men do, and mothers earn less than anyone.

Many of the “benefits” and “perks” offered by the “100 best” companies are completely voluntary and certainly not permanent. Time to slash 2,000 jobs or cut the budget? Let’s cut [insert family-friendly benefit].

While many of the companies offer six weeks of paid maternity leave here or a lactation room there, not one of the companies measures up to what’s required of employers in much of the rest of the world. While Working Mother compares the “100 best” to other U.S. companies (click on “Download a snapshot of how the 100 Best compare to all the rest”), it fails to mention that many of the “100 best” operate in Canada, Norway and Sweden — for example — and, by law, must provide employees in those countries with some of the most generous and comprehensive benefits in the world. That’s not required in the United States, though. Instead, some of the things Working Mother cites as cool “benefits” American employees might get, depending where they work:

  • Yoga or exercise classes
  • Meditation classes
  • Knitting classes
  • Surfing lessons
  • Massage therapy
  • Stress-management counseling or stress seminars
  • Financial-planning advice and/or tax software
  • Online support groups
  • A diaper bag
  • Event-planning service
  • First-aid classes
  • A parenting kit
  • A pop-up window that tells employees who fire up their work computers on Saturday or Sunday that, “It’s the weekend.”
Posted by Becky @ 4:22 pm  

4 Responses to “What Working Mother magazine won’t tell you, part 1”

  1. Arwen Says:

    “It’s the weekend.” That’s great. I bet a bunch of mom’s would do bits (read: lots) of work on the weekend if they had more flexible schedules to balance work and life during the week.

  2. Link Round-up « Toddled Dredge Says:

    […] If you are a working mom or consider becoming one, check out the series that Becky at deepmuckbigrake.com is doing on Working Mother magazine’s list of so-called best companies for working mothers. Here’s her article introducing the subject after last year’s list, and her first article on this year’s list. […]

  3. Random Things Online today « Am I Half Dead or Am I Doin’ fine? Says:

    […] the same as mine- though I did like what she said too. Sadly- she’s not telling me anything I don’t already know- I live a life in which my company can shift gears & begin insisting in punitive amounts of […]

  4. Deep Muck Big Rake » Books: Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated by Carolyn B. Maloney Says:

    […] Working Mother magazine, whose 100 Best list is — well, let’s just say I’m highly skeptical of the whole […]

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