One in four US mums return to work TWO WEEKS after giving birth 7 years ago

One in four US mums return to work TWO WEEKS after giving birth

Tales of the dreamy parenting perks offered by high-flying American companies to their best and brightest employees are ten a penny right now, with Goldman Sachs, Nestle, Netflix and Virgin all boosting their benefits for moms and dads. 

But the hype disguises the reality for thousands of new mothers struggling to make ends meet because of the United States' nonexistent maternity leave provisions.

Current US maternity leave policy includes a provision mandating 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave annually for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children, but no wage compensation.

According to the latest figures (from 2012), the gaping hole in support for pregnant women means that one quarter of mothers in the US return to work less than two weeks after giving birth. 12 per cent of the 2,852 women surveyed took one week or less. Those with a college degree were more than 80 per cent more likely to take more than six weeks leave after having a baby.

Analysis conducted by Abt Associates, for an investigative feature published in the magazine In These Times, revealed that the highest-paid workers were also the most likely to have paid maternity leave, compared to just one in 20 of the lowest paid workers.

While some states, including California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey, have brought in their own paid maternity leave laws, the US as a whole is one of only three countries in the developed world (the others are Papua New Guinea and Oman) not to offer parental leave in some form.

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All of this is setting women back even further in terms of the gender pay gap (women make just 78 cents for every dollar made by a man), but it is also having a very real affect on the health of American mothers and babies, with stressed mums more likely to suffer from depression and less likely to breastfeed because of the pressure to return to work as soon as possible.

As Swedish parents enjoy 16 months of paid parental leave, Finnish mums and dads split paid child care leave up until their baby's third birthday, and Irish parents scrape by on 26 weeks’ maternity benefit (unless your employer provides for additional rights to payment ) the situation in the US is no closer to being resolved.

President Barrack Obama's attempts to improve maternity supports have failed dismally. However, as the presidential campaign for 2016 gets underway, with two women (former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ex-Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina) running at the same time for the first time in history, the issues of maternity leave and childcare are no doubt about to be given a much brighter spotlight.

How do you feel about Ireland's maternity leave laws? Let us know on Twitter @HerFamilydotie.