Maternity Leave as One of the Gender Problems
Gender issues are concerns that are based on gender differences between men and women. They entail a variety of aspects related to their private lives as well as their status in the modern society. Moreover, they reveal the ways in which males and females are related to each other, differences in resource acquisition and reaction to the societal changes and policies that govern such issues. In this context, maternity leave has been categorized as one of the paramount gender concerns that requires specially created schemes adopted by the state authorities. The purpose of maternity leave policies is to preserve the family integrity and foster economic stability. They offer employees an opportunity to take some time in order to take care of children. Maternity leave acts provide equality in workplaces and job allocation and also minimize discrimination based on gender (Joshi, Neely, Emrich, Griffiths, & George, 2015). With regard to the given issue, Sweden is among the countries that have offered a very practical model of the maternity leave. Therefore, this paper aims to discuss in details maternity leave as one of the gender problems while using a case study in Sweden.
Gender inequality still exists in most parts of the world where only 4 out of 134 nations have fully achieved gender equality, namely, Costa Rica, Sweden, Cuba, and Norway (Baker & Milligan, 2015). The main measures they have adopted to cope with the problem include equal access to education, employment opportunities, health and political empowerment. For instance, in most nations, for any public placement, a one-third rule must be followed according to which females have to account for a third of the total number of the appointed individuals (Avendano, Berkman, Brugiavini, & Pasini, 2015). It is necessary to mention that the United Nations have played a great role in advocating for gender equality in the society in order to have economic growth.
One of the gender-based issues mainly affecting women at the workplace is the one of maternity leave. In some organizations, females are not provided with it which makes it difficult to take care of the baby. Moreover, very often, whenever a woman becomes pregnant they are fired. Therefore, it is an issue that requires being addressed in order to eliminate gender discrimination. Actually, a lot has been done to deal with the problem. Interestingly, nowadays, even a husband is offered paternity leave in order to help a wife in taking care of their baby
Initially, maternity leave was not a legislative issue since most of the mothers were prevented from participating in labor force movements. Restrictive gender norms also limited their access to employment. Between 1961 and 1965, only 14% of the mothers were involved in the workforce during the first 6 months of their child’s birth (Albrecht, Thoursie, & Vroman, 2015). Before enactment of Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, maternity leave was governed by different state laws, employer policies and collective bargaining agreement (Albrecht et al., 2015). However, over the years, it has been embraced as a gender issue in the society.
Maternity leave is defined as a period of approved absence for any female employee in order to give birth and take care of the newborn baby. Depending on the country’s labor laws, its duration can vary from a few weeks to months to ensure a mother has enough time to bond with a kid. Organizations are required to provide maternity leave without any form of discrimination based on race, religion or ethnic background. To ensure this, numerous legislative acts have been passed. For example, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 was adopted in order to give pregnant women the same rights as to other employees within the organization and prevent job discrimination (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Under the act, the employer cannot fire a female worker because she is pregnant, and additionally, she is granted the same health and sick leave as other staff members (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Moreover, during maternity leave, the act guarantees an employee the job security as well as the monthly salary to take care of the family.
Depending on the organization’s policies, females start taking their maternity leave a week to a month before the delivery date due to discomfort experienced while in the workplace. They also need time to prepare for safe delivery and ensure all the necessary items required for the baby are available. To regulate the process, Family and Medical Leave Act requires that an employee should provide the employer with a notice in order to take the leave (Evertsson, 2016). It will help the human resource department to seek for a temporary replacement in order to provide a smooth flow of company’s activities.
Another point that is worth paying attention to is that many companies globally presume that the role of parenting is a one-sided issue. To their misunderstanding, children have only one parent, a mother. Therefore, they relate maternity leave to motherhood but not parenthood. Nevertheless, there are companies that have adopted the concept of gender neutrality. Consequently, they have implemented policies regarding parental leave understanding that the role of men in parenthood remains underestimated and undervalued (Joshi et al., 2015). The gender-neutral policies in the modern communities now provide males with opportunities to take time off work and act as caretakers for their children. The new international trend has entitled both parents to the responsibility of focusing on their kids and problems that affect them. This shows that male parents can take paternity leave to have time with the newborn baby. The concept of gender neutrality has also triggered the need for further changes regarding financial and cultural aspects to make men feel comfortable while playing their roles as parents and taking care of their families. As a result, both men and women can take paid leave, and they are entitled to 480 days which they can share equally (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Therefore, the legislation and policies enacted and implemented ensure that workers both male and females are entitled to maternity/paternity leave equality.
Obviously, the policies regarding maternity leave and its duration differ in various states (see Table 1). The maternity pay that will be given to a mother is also dissimilar. The sum is usually based on the basic salary and will help to take care of the child’s basic needs. Furthermore, depending on a country’s regulations, there is a different provider of the maternity pay (see Table 1) (Evertsson, 2016).
Table 1. Maternity Leave and Maternity Pay in Different States
|The duration of maternity leave
|Percentage of wages paid during maternity (%)
|Provider of pay
|Family allowance funds
|Health insurance or employer
|United Arab Emirates
Benefits of Maternity Leave
Maternity leave is very beneficial for both parents and a newborn baby as it will allow enough time to take care of the kid. The leave helps a mother to watch over her child as he/she grows which adds more joy to her heart. Furthermore, during the first few months after birth, a baby requires the mother’s love and presence which stimulates child’s normal development (Joshi et al., 2015). Moreover, during maternity leave, a new mother can teach her child all the things which will help them when growing up and playing. At the same time, new parents are able to learn about parenthood. Spending the first few months with a child will also create a strong bond and attachment between a mother and a kid. Lastly, maternity leave provides a mother with ample time to breastfeed a baby since the breast milk is very healthy and full of nutrients.
Maternity Leave in Sweden
Sweden is one of the countries with the best maternity leave policies. All the expectant mothers in the state normally receive prenatal care which helps them to prepare for delivery. After the birth of a baby, parents are provided with 480 days of paid maternity leave in order to have ample time to look after a newborn (Albrecht et al., 2015). For 390 days, the mother is provided with 80% of her basic salary in order to cater for her baby’s needs (Albrecht et al., 2015). The remaining 90 days are then paid following a flat rate (Albrecht et al., 2015). Maternity leave in Sweden is normally paid by the social security system which is a very good example of how taxes normally come back to the society in the long run (Baker & Milligan, 2015). It is, therefore, a requirement for any female who gets pregnant to register with the relevant institutions in order to facilitate maternity leave payments when the delivery time approaches (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Thus, it is clear that Sweden is able to recognize maternity leave as a gender issue in the society.
In addition, parental leave can be extended and taken up by both parents until the child turns eight years old. If parents have more than one child, the leave days can be accumulated. Moreover, parents in Sweden are allowed to reduce their working hours by 25% until the kid is eight, and in case, they have not exhausted their maternity leave days (Albrecht et al., 2015). Parents, therefore, have time to look after their child and ensure they are able to mold their behaviors.
The Swedish government is very supportive of the new parents financially in order to make their lives better. Besides the maternity pay, the state authorities provide monthly child allowance till a kid turns 16 years of age (Albrecht et al., 2015). The allowance is SEK 1050 per month per child, and parents can use the money to take care of the kid’s basic needs such as food, shelter, and education (Albrecht et al., 2015). In case a parent has more than one baby, they will get extra family allowances per every child.
As for employers in Sweden, they have no disincentive when it comes to hiring women who may be pregnant or may have children and need time off to take care of them. It can be explained by the fact that in the state, parental roles in childcare are highly preserved in the society (Albrecht et al., 2015). However, despite all the efforts, women are usually those taking the maternity leave, despite the fact that men have a right to do that as well.
The maternity leave in Sweden brings about numerous benefits. First of all, a new mother has ample time in order to heal after giving birth (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Moreover, parents are entitled to thirteen-month occupational protection accompanied by eighty percent salary compensation (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Single mothers whose husbands are either not known or have died are allowed to the full maternity period (Baker & Milligan, 2015). In addition, parents also take advantage of social insurance benefits during the prenatal period (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Furthermore, parents receive a child allowance equivalent to 106 Euros every month during the maternity leave period (Baker & Milligan, 2015). It has to be highlighted that all the payments and allowances are not taxable. Social benefits are also paramount. Typical examples of these include unemployment and healthcare insurance (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Apart from the maternity insurance provided by the state, parents receive additional payments on behalf of their employers. However, these payments are regulated by the labor market treaties between the employers and unions.
Maternity leave has been a gender issue since it mainly affects women who are discriminated at work. Currently, many firms are providing female employees with maternity leave so that they have ample time to be with the baby. During maternity leave, the new mother concentrates on taking care of the child and breastfeeding in order to guarantee the baby’s healthy growth. Moreover, The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 was enacted in order to ensure job security for the period of maternity leave.
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Nowadays, most nations are implementing policies and programs that will aid men and women to balance family responsibilities and paid employment. The policies are focusing on gender equality, especially considering maternity leave and childbearing responsibilities. As a result, both parents are entitled to take maternity/paternity leave which is accompanied by specified payments. This creates awareness that men can take paternity leave and focus on the childbearing responsibilities as well. Furthermore, parental leave policies provide men and women with an opportunity to enjoy financial benefits. The objective of the mentioned legislation is to preserve the family integrity and enhance financial stability. Moreover, the acts provide equality in workplaces and job allocation and also minimize gender-based discrimination cases.