Utah gets ‘F’ in maternity leave benefits, study shows

Posted at 9:41 PM, Jul 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-29 23:41:01-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah gets graded an “F” when it comes to maternity leave.

That's what a new study from the National Partnership for Women and Families says.

Many new mothers are forced to go back to work before they want to. Utah doesn't have any laws in place to protect pregnant women in the workplace, and many women are at the mercy of their employers most of which don't offer any maternity benefits.

"I'm leaving my daughter with strangers to take care of her," said new mom Amanda Brown who was forced to go back to work after 10 weeks of maternity leave. Much of it was unpaid.

"She was barely, she wasn't even 8 pounds yet when we left her and I was worried about what was going to happen to her, how things were going to be handled, how she was going to be taken care of," she said.

Federal law states mothers and fathers can stay at home with their newborns up to three months without pay.

Those benefits only apply if you've worked full time for a year at a company and there are loopholes for small businesses.

Ultimately it's up to employers to provide a maternity plan. Very few states, like California offer 55 percent pay for up to 6 weeks.

The National Partnership for Women and Families indicates that the U.S. has one of the worst maternity and paternity leave policies in the world, ranking in the bottom four.

Countries like Israel provides 14 weeks at 100 percent pay, and in Slovakia mothers get to stay at home for three years.

"I think it's very unfortunate that Utah received that grade particularly because as a culture, as a society, state, tout our dedication to the family," said Rep. Jennifer Seelig.

Seelig said it's time for the State to step up.

"I think we ought to look at different avenues in terms of public policy and put our money where our mouths are," she said.

"It's really hurtful. They want their women here to be moms, they say they want their families to stick together and they're trying to support the families but having no way to help us be able to work and support our families and have families makes it really hard," Brown said.

Approximately 163 countries provide women paid maternity leave. The U.S. is not one of them with the exception of a handful of states which have passed their own laws.

Seelig said one idea is to provide an incentive for employers who provide maternity leave --either in the form of a tax break or an award.