Watch CBS News

Good Question: Why Do Parents In U.S. Get Less Time Off Than In Other Countries?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- If you are planning on having a baby, a good company to work for is Netflix.

The company announced Tuesday they are starting an "unlimited leave policy," meaning new moms and dads can take as much time off as they want, with pay, during the child's first year.

It is a rare move considering only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave.

Some countries overseas not only have paid maternity and paternity leave, they also offer up to a year off at full pay.

The Family Medical Leave Act requires U.S. companies with more than 50 employees to give 12 weeks unpaid leave if an employee has been there for a year. But only a small percentage fit that criteria, and it is up to the employer to decide whether or not mom and dad get paid while gone.

"Someone recently did a study of every country in the globe and the only countries that don't offer paid maternity leave are the United States and Papua New Guinea," University of Minnesota family law professor Jill Hasday said.

She says Netflix, an American company, did a very European thing when it offered employees a year off with pay. That is what the country of Denmark offers for family leave.

"One way to explain it is there are strong theories of individualism in the United States in that every family should take care of itself," she said.

After World War II, male populations were down across Europe from fighting the war. As a way to encourage women to both work and have babies, countries began offering paid maternity leave.

"After the war they realized it was very important that women work and have children. So paid parental leave made both of those things happen," Hasday said.

She says during World War II here at home, many women were filling in for men in the work force. When the men returned, the women went home to watch the kids.

Obviously that mentality has changed a lot over the past 70 years, but many parents still go unpaid during baby's first months.

Hasday added that the U.S. in general is known for having fewer social benefits than the rest of the developed world.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.