Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ha Ha April Fools

So here's an email I received yesterday that made me laugh--and then made me want to cry. Read it, and you'll see what I mean. (Picture sold separately.)


At last, working parents can stop feeling guilty and start enjoying their family lives without giving up their jobs:

*A pregnant woman can now take leave from work six weeks before her baby is due and stay out ten weeks after the birth, all at full pay, with return to her job guaranteed.

*Fathers can take up to 11 days off after the birth of a baby, also at full pay. The parents can then share up to three years of leave time without risk of losing their jobs, and will receive a stipend if they are staying home with two or more children.

* Family-friendly policies don't stop after parents go back to work. Work hours are now set at 35 hours per week, and all workers receive twelve national holidays and five paid weeks of vacation

* A national preschool program is available to all children ages 3-5. It requires teachers have a master's degree and pays those teachers a living wage.


APRIL FOOL! Those benefits are available to families in France, not the U.S.

-In Belgium, working women are entitled to four weeks maternity leave at 82 percent of their salary, and 11 more weeks at 74 percent. Belgian workers are entitled to 20 days paid vacation time and 10 national holidays. They also get up to 10 days of fully-paid leave each year to care for sick family members.

-Canada offers Employment Insurance for both maternity and paternity leave, allowing a couple to take up to 50 weeks leave, which can be divided between mother and father, at 55 percent of pay, up to a maximum of $435 per week. In addition, Canada's Universal Child Care Benefit pays families $100 per month for each child under age six.


So what's the real story about the U.S.?

* Of the 20 richest countries in the world, only Australia and the U.S. have no national law requiring paid maternity leave. Parents are eligible for only twelve weeks unpaid leave, the shortest amount of leave time of all Western industrialized countries. Furthermore, employees are not guaranteed unpaid leave unless their employer has over 50 workers within 75 miles of the parent's worksite and the employee has worked for the company for at least 12 months. Of workers eligible for leave who do not take it, 78 percent say that is because they can't afford to take time off without any pay.

*The U.S. is the only Western industrialized nation that does not mandate paid vacations. On average, we work nearly nine full weeks longer per year than our peers in Western Europe.

This funny yet sad wake up call brought to you by my friends at the Council on Contemporary Families.

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