Home | Back Issues | Contact Us | News Home
“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 207
February 26, 2011

This week's issue:
Judgment Review
Rights Corner
Human Rights Monitor
Laws for Everyday Life
Law Lexicon
Law Week

Back Issues

Law Home

News Home


Rights Corner

Lack of paid leave harms workers
and children

Millions of US workers - including parents of infants - are harmed by weak or nonexistent laws on paid leave, breastfeeding accommodation, and discrimination against workers with family responsibilities. Workers face grave health, financial, and career repercussions as a result. US employers miss productivity gains and turnover savings that these cost-effective policies generate in other countries. Based on interviews with 64 parents across the country, it documents the health and financial impact on American workers of having little or no paid family leave after childbirth or adoption. Employer reticence to offer breastfeeding support or flexible schedules, and workplace discrimination against new parents, especially mothers. Parents said that having scarce or no paid leave contributed to delaying babies' immunizations, postpartum depression and other health problems, and caused mothers to give up breastfeeding early. Many who took unpaid leave went into debt and some were forced to seek public assistance. Some women said employer bias against working mothers derailed their careers. Same-sex parents were often denied even unpaid leave. "We can't afford not to guarantee paid family leave under law - especially in these tough economic times," said Janet Walsh, deputy women's rights director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "The US is actually missing out by failing to ensure that all workers have access to paid family leave. Countries that have these programs show productivity gains, reduced turnover costs, and health care savings."

One woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch said her manager was unhappy about her pregnancy and forced her to clean up the floor and do tasks normally assigned to other staff in the last months of her pregnancy, and refused to let her use accrued paid sick leave after her baby was born. When she returned to work after a six-week unpaid leave, her manager denied her a space to pump breast milk, forced her to work night shifts, and threatened to fire her if she took time off for medical appointments for her ailing baby. Lacking health insurance, she received no treatment for severe post-partum depression.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enables US workers with new children or family members with serious medical conditions to take unpaid job-protected leave, but it covers only about half the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11 percent of civilian workers (and 3 percent of the lowest-income workers) have paid family leave benefits. Roughly two-thirds of civilian workers have some paid sick leave, but only about a fifth of low-income workers do. Several studies have found that the number of employers voluntarily offering paid family leave is declining.

Moreover, research on the impact of paid maternity leave on health has found that paid and sufficiently long leaves are associated with increased breastfeeding, lower infant mortality, higher rates of immunizations and health visits for babies, and lower risk of

Source: Human Rights Watch.



© All Rights Reserved