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An Approved Absence: A Look at Paid Parental Leave

The U.S. doesn’t guarantee its workers paid parental leave, unlike most other countries that offer generous time off for new parents. Let’s take a look at the state of maternal and paternal leave in the U.S. as compared to the rest of the world.

Parental Leave in the U.S.

Only three countries in the world do not guarantee paid parental leave: (1)

Papua New Guinea


United States


Percentage of adults in the U.S. with access to parental leave (1)


Percentage of low-wage earners that receive paid parental leave (1)

Only four states offer publicly funded maternity leave: (1)


New Jersey


Rhode Island


The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 in an attempt to protect workers who needed job-protected leave for family or medical reasons, which include having a baby or caring for an adopted child. (1) Unfortunately, it isn’t as effective as it was meant to be.


Percentage of workers who are legally covered by FMLA (1)

12 weeks

The amount of unpaid time offered by FMLA (1)

Eligibility means a worker must work at least 1,250 hours per year for a company with 50 or more employees. (1)

2 in 5

Number of women who do not qualify for leave under FMLA (1)

Paid Leave Abroad

So what does the rest of the world offer?

Maternity leave (2)

U.K.: 40

Vietnam: 26

Ireland: 26

Singapore: 16

Bangladesh: 16

Canada: 15

China: 14

Chad: 14

Democratic Republic of Congo: 14

Mexico: 12

Iran: 12

Paternity leave (2)

Iceland: 12.8

Finland: 7.7

Portugal: 2.8

Spain: 2.1

Kenya: 2

Venezuela: 2

Australia: 2

Denmark: 2

U.K.: 2

Singapore: 1

Bahamas: 1

Companies With Best Parental Leave Benefits

Most companies that offer the most competitive and generous parental leaves are tech giants, including: (1)

Company: Leave offered

Google: 12-18 weeks maternity leave, 12 weeks paternity leave

Facebook: Equal time off for both parents, plus $4,000 bonus for infant care

Apple: 4 weeks before birth and 16 weeks after maternity leave, 6 weeks paternity

Yahoo: 16 weeks maternity leave, 8 weeks paternity leave

Twitter: 20 weeks maternity and paternity leave

Why Parental Leave Matters

Paid parental leave is important mostly because of the expense of having a new baby. Without pay, most new moms and dads can’t afford to take time off, keeping them from the time they should be spending caring for their child.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average couple will spend a total of almost $12,000 extra the first year on their newborn baby. (3)

First-year expenses (3)

Housing: $3,875

Food: $1,513

Transportation: $1,500

Clothing: $838

Health care: $838

Child care/education: $2,750

Other: $538