Pregnancy Leave: Just How Much Is Too Much?

So, I’ve been up north at HRPA 2014 and have learned so much about our Canadian HR sisters and brothers (and like the U.S., it’s still mostly sisters!).

Did you know the maternity leave in Canada is 52 weeks? That’s one year if you’re slow at math like me!

And that can be divided in any manner between the mother and father. Plus, from the peers I spoke to, many get up to 55 percent of their salary for the entire time they’re off.

The U.S. has FMLA (the Family and medical Leave Act) for only 12 weeks. By the way, the women I spoke to, who didn’t know what the U.S. did, were completely shocked by this. But, I was completely shocked by 52 weeks and 55 percent pay!

How much leave is too much leave?

My question to you today is: How much pregnancy leave is too much?

Here are some thoughts I have between the U.S. and Canadian policies:

  • Twelve (12) weeks is too short, and 52 weeks seems too long.
  • I’m not sure how companies manage, especially those with a large female workforce. It would seem like a huge competitive disadvantage to lose your talent for so long and still have to pay out so many resources for not having that talent.
  • I wish I would have had my three sons in Canada.
  • Should government force a corporation to pay an employee for a very personal decision? The company didn’t ask you to have babies, so why should they pay 55 percent of your salary? How is that decision different from many life decisions we make? I want to train for an Ironman Triathlon and I expect it will take me six (6) months. Pay me for that!
  • Canadians game the system just like Americans! My Canadian HR peers had the same war stories as my American peers. One was of a female business owner who got pregnant, and since she owned the business, she didn’t have to claim 52 weeks off. So her husband took all 52 weeks and got paid 55 percent of his salary. The HR person knew this was going on and couldn’t do anything about it. Yes, people are people – given a set of rules they’ll find ways around them.

Is there a perfect amount of maternity leave?

I run a company that has had many pregnancies over the years. I hire an age that falls into the perfect age for baby making! Each time we have one person out for 12 weeks, it’s a stress on the entire team. I can’t even imagine how we would manage for 52 weeks!

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A part of me is glad I don’t have to deal with that. Another part of me wishes we had better maternity leave in the U.S.

I don’t know what the perfect number is, but I’m sure it’s different for each family going through it.

What do you think? What is the perfect amount of pregnancy leave? If you were given the chance to design a plan taking into account both the employee and the company resources, what would you decide to do?

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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