A Not So Happy Mother’s Day

By Andrew Brockman

“The United States has aligned themselves with Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea as the only countries in not mandating paid maternity leave for new mothers”

Every May, the entire country gathers together to celebrate one of the people who raised them. Mother’s Day is an important day to honor the women who raised us. People consistently post touching, and sometimes a bit cheesy, status about how influential their mother was to their life. It seems that people spend a lot of time honoring veteran mothers; however, the United States does not honor rookie mothers with a more generous maternity leave especially when comparing the US to other developed countries.

The United States

The United States has aligned themselves with Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea as the only countries in not mandating paid maternity leave for new mothers.[1] The United Kingdom mandates that new mothers be given between 40-45 weeks of maternity leave.[2]

In April 2016, San Francisco pioneered a program that would mandate up to six weeks of full pay for parental leave for workers.[3] This is a crucial social program, not only for moral reasons, but also for scientific ones. The CDC has stated that paid maternity leave lowers the rate of postpartum depression and infant mortality rates.[4] It further argued that if mothers are given paid leave, infants will breastfeed longer and will be more likely to receive immunizations.[5]

Unfortunately, it is likely that the US will continue to force employers to pay for maternity. For example, if a company has over 50 employees, the company is obligated to offer three months of unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.[6] In fact, many new mothers in the United States strategically medical leave to ensure payment while taking care of a newborn.[7] Horrifyingly, this technically considers pregnancy at a disease instead of a blessing.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is so far ahead of the United States on maternity leave that it is now considering paternity leave.[8] Shared parental leave is paid at a rate of 139.58 pounds a week or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earing, whichever is lower.[9]New rules adopted in the past few years allow both parents to take up to 50 weeks of leave.[10] Of these 50 weeks, 37 of them are paid. An interesting complexity of the rule is that parents can alternate when they take them time off; the couple can accrue 50 weeks together.[11] That way, parents do not have to send their child to daycare and can instead focus all their attention on the newborn. This rule applies to same adopting parents, sex couples, co-habituating couples, and couples bringing up a child together even if the baby is from a prior relationship.[12]


Maternity leave in Bulgaria is a full 410 days; which is calculated by adding 45 prenatal days to a full calendar year.[13] The expecting mother is not required to give notice to an employer of the pregnancy before filing for the maternity leave.[14] If the new mom has at least one year experience at the company, she will be paid 90% of her wage.[15] It is paid for by the National Health Insurance Fund.[16] Parents are eligible for a second year of leave but with a salary deduction.[17] An incredibly unamerican twist is that even the father and the grandparents can take the second year in place of the mother is that is deemed necessary.[18]


France gives mothers a full 16 weeks of maternity leave.[19] Of important note is that mothers are given 100% of their wages.[20] Like Bulgaria, the new mom is not required to disclose her pregnancy until she wishes to take the maternity leave.[21] France takes it one step further and requires the mother to undergo seven prenatal examination.[22] Most mothers around the world would do this already; however, France will reimburse mothers for these seven examination. [23]

It is undisputed that the United States is a global leader in many industries. This country is a symbol of hope, security, and freedom. However, we are drastically behind in respecting mothers after they bring a child into the world. This May, instead of posting about how amazing your mother is, consider raising awareness for the fact that the United States does absolutely nothing for new mothers.

* * * * *

[1] Danielle Kurtzleben, Lots of Other Countries Mandate Paid Leave. Why Not the U.S?, Npr (July 15, 2015, 11:47 AM),  http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/07/15/422957640/lots-of-other-countries-mandate-paid-leave-why-not-the-us

[2] Id.

[3] Rita Rubin, U.S. Dead Last Among Developed Countries When It Comes to Paid Maternity Leave, Forbes (Apr. 6, 2016 3:07 PM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/ritarubin/2016/04/06/united-states-lags-behind-all-other-developed-countries-when-it-comes-to-paid-maternity-leave/#4e09e0525ada

[4] Id

[5] Id

[6] Jen Hubley Luckwaldt, These 9 Countries Have the World’s Best Maternity Leave Policies, PayScale Human Capital  http://www.payscale.com/career-news/2013/05/these-9-countries-have-the-worlds-best-maternity-leave-policies-infographic

[7] Hodgkins Interview [Personal interview]. (2016, Oct. 7).

[8] Kevin Peachey, How the UK’s New Rules on Parental Leave Work, BBC NEWS (Apr. 5, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32130481

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Maternity Leave Around the World, Mom.me (July 2, 2014), https://mom.me/pregnancy/5336-maternity-leave-around-world/item/bulgaria/

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Bryan Nelson, The 10 Best Countries to Work In, Mother Nature Network (Dec. 9, 2011 8:50 AM), http://www.mnn.com/money/green-workplace/photos/the-10-best-countries-to-work-in/bulgaria

[18] Id.

[19] Luckwaldt Supra Note 6.


[21] Having a Baby in France, Angloinfo  https://www.angloinfo.com/how-to/france/healthcare/pregnancy-birth

[22] Id.

[23] Id.