Report: United States offers the least protected maternity leave

Employees need to be aware of their benefits at all times.

Employees need to be aware of their benefits at all times.

Employees who wish to build a family may be aware of the financial burdens of raising a child, but are they aware that businesses are not obligated to provide paid leave? Even though the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects new mothers' right to be out of work for up to 12 weeks, employers do not have to pay a staff member during this time

In fact, the benefit of maternity leave is only available if the employee has been with a company for at least one year, according to the Pew Research Center. While the United States is used to being an outlier in many respects, Americans may not be comfortable with the distinction of being the least supporting of growing families.

Based on data analyzed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED), among 38 nations around the world, the U.S. is the only one to not offer paid maternity leave. Last month, this blog discussed how employers can alleviate the pressure of a work-family life balance, but the issues around raising a family occur even before the child is born.

"Of the 38 countries represented, the U.S. is the only one that does not mandate any paid leave for new mothers," Pew contributor Gretchen Livingston writes. "In comparison, Estonia offers about two years of paid leave, and Hungary and Lithuania offer one-and-a-half years or more of fully-paid leave."

If a business offers maternity or paternity benefits beyond those required by law, they can communicate such through their HR software solutions. Making it clear that these benefits are available may encourage workers to remain loyal to their organization. Furthermore, employees may be unaware of their rights under the FMLA or other laws, so it is important to be as transparent as possible. This way, workers are fully aware of their options and can plan their futures accordingly.