Donating vacation days to pregnant coworkers is a new trend, and here's why that's tragic
As many families know all-too-well, paid time off after the arrival of a new baby is not a guarantee in the United States. And it means a ton of new moms are forced to return to work before their bodies have even fully healed — let alone before they’ve had time to bond with their infant. And some workplaces are finding a creative work-around: Employees are “gifting” their vacation days to pregnant coworkers so that they can afford to spend a few more days at home with their new babies.
And as absolutely wonderful and heartwarming as that gesture is, it speaks to a huge problem: namely, that our government doesn’t guarantee parents this basic necessity.
Good Morning America first reported on the “trend” yesterday, July 18th, telling the story of one woman who received almost eight weeks of paid time off from her coworkers because she didn’t yet qualify for parental leave. The article also detailed a Nebraska policy that enables state employees to donate vacation time towards others people’s maternity leave. A total of 15% of employers now allow employees to donate their time off, according to the article.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave. And many are reacting to the “uplifting” GMA story with anger and frustration. Readers took to Twitter to share their thoughts, noting that this system should not be applauded.
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And, as some pointed out, many employees’ vacation time is already limited.
Like parental leave, companies in the U.S. aren’t actually required to provide paid vacation time at all. According to the Department of Labor, the Federal Labor Standards Act doesn’t require payment for any time off, including sick days and holidays. With that in mind, not everyone would be able to help out a pregnant coworker in a pinch.
Realistically, the best (and pretty much only) viable solution is for the government to mandate paid parental leave. A study published by Pew Research Center in May 2017 found that 85% of respondents supported paid maternity leave and 69% supported paid paternity leave.
While we commend those generous souls willing to give away their precious time off, we agree: It’s a bandaid. Not a solution.