Reflections from across the pond
In the UK, maternity leave can last up to 52 weeks. Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for the first 6 weeks at 90% of average weekly earnings. Then, for the remaining 33 weeks, it is £172.48 or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
If the employee takes the full maternity leave, the final 13 weeks will be unpaid.
For fathers, it’s interesting to note they are entitled to two weeks leave with some level of statutory pay—compared to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave fathers can qualify for here under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
However, in the UK, parents do have the option to share leaves, which makes caring for a child more flexible.
In terms of daycare, the costs are similar, but the UK government does offer subsidies to working parents to help cover costs.
Starting in 2025, the UK government plans to offer 30 hours of childcare per week, for eligible children between nine months and three years old. This will be an improvement on the current 30 hours childcare per week that is only available to three and four year olds.
In the realm of paid vs. unpaid leaves, some U.S. states are ensuring paid leaves for new parents, alongside progressive employers who carry these policies nationwide. I am proud to say Alight is one.
We must applaud and shine a light on these efforts, rallying others to join in with what I see as a win-win for society.
In closing, when we look to other parts of the world, where studies show children are healthier and better adjusted, I believe the U.S. needs to do more to protect vulnerable families and fill the gaps in our safety net when it comes to children and families.
We still have much to learn as we seek to support the health and welfare of those individuals who want to create and grow families—but I am encouraged by the momentum I see.