Gina Florio
February 28, 2017 2:41 pm
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Astonishingly enough, the United States is one of only two countries in the whole world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave for working moms (the other is Papua New Guinea). That puts millions of women in a difficult place when they’re getting ready to bring a new life into the world. So Yum! Brands, the company that runs fast food chains KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, is taking matters into its own hands. They’re offering a pretty sweet paid parental leave policy to their corporate employees across the country.

Soon-to-be mothers who work at Yum! Brands now get 18 weeks of time off — fully paid. “The new policy for birth mothers nearly triples their paid time-off, as the previous policy offered 6-8 weeks of 100% paid time off,” Yum! said in a statement to Refinery29. That’s not all, though.

All parents, including fathers, partners, and even adoptive or foster moms and dads, get to take six weeks of fully paid time off. Yum! calls this the “baby bonding” period. This policy was not previously available to Yum! employees, so there are a lot of people rejoicing over the news.

More companies should follow suit, because having time off to bring your child into the world does amazing things for the health of both the mother and the baby. A study published in 2012 found that the women who had fewer than 12 weeks of maternity leave and less than eight weeks of paid leave were much more likely to experience depressive symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from national surveys to find that women with 12 weeks or more of paid maternity leave were much more likely to breastfeed their kids, which is correlated with strong, healthy babies.

At this time, the maternity leave policy is only available to corporate employees working in Yum! U.S. headquarters. Because the individual fast food restaurants are owned as franchises, the individual franchise owner has to be the one to decide on things like maternity leave.

Still, this is a big step for parents everywhere, and we can only hope that it’s the first of many positive changes that support working women in America.

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