Survey: U.S. workplace not family-oriented

Filed under: Just For Moms, Just For Dads, Work Life

The difficulty of balancing work and family is a common strain many parents experience. Apparently, it is more common for parents working in the United States. According to a study by Harvard and McGill Universities, the U.S. lags far behind virtually all wealthy countries with regard to family-oriented workplace policies such as maternity leave, paid sick days and support for breast-feeding.

The study says workplace policies for families in the U.S. are weaker than those of all high-income countries and many middle- and low-income countries. Notably, it says the United States is one of only five countries out of 173 in the survey that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave; the others are Lesotho, Liberia, Switzerland and Papua New Guinea.

According to the study, the U.S. fares comparatively well in some areas - such as guaranteeing significantly higher pay for overtime work and ensuring the right to work for all racial and ethnic groups, regardless of gender, age or disability.

"More countries are providing the workplace protections that millions of Americans can only dream of," said the study's lead author, Jody Heymann, founder of the Harvard-based Project on Global Working Families and director of McGill's Institute for Health and Social Policy. "The U.S. has been a proud leader in adopting laws that provide for equal opportunity in the workplace, but our work/family protections are among the worst," Heymann said. "It's time for a change."

As a working parent, I hope that U.S. employers won't wait for it to become law to start examining their policies regarding working parents. I have been fortunate in the recent past to have had such support in my workplace. What about you? Does your employer accommodate your needs as a working parent?

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