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Former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer has his eyes set on the 8th District congressional seat in Northern Virginia, calling for stronger guns laws, protecting the environment and expanded family leave when a baby arrives.
"The United States is the only industrialized country that does not guarantee paid time off to care for a new child..." Beyer, a Democrat, says on his campaign website.
We wondered if he’s right.
The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles some workers to 12 weeks of unpaid leave time when they have babies. The law has many exceptions; it does not apply, for example, to businesses with fewer than 50 employees or to workers who have been at a company for less than a year.
Three states -- California, New Jersey and Rhode Island -- provide paid family leave through payroll taxes. And some companies go beyond federal requirements and provide paid leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 12 percent of private industry workers have access to paid leave.
But the bottom line, as Beyer says, is that the U.S. does not require parents be compensated when they take time off to care for newborns.
How does that compare to the rest of the world? Beyer’s office pointed us to a report released this year by the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency. It examined maternity and paternity leave in 185 countries and territories and found that 99 percent of them require compensated maternity leave -- paid by the countries through a social insurance program, by employers, or a combination of these sources.
Mothers in only two countries, the United States and Papau New Guinea, aren’t guaranteed paid maternity leave, according to the report.
Beyer’s office also sent us a link to a PolitiFact National story that President Barack Obama’s claim in June that the U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave.
Our colleagues rated Obama’s claim Mostly True, saying that U.S. leave policies for mothers is among the most meager in the world. But they noted that paid maternity leave isn’t a universal right around the world because many countries don’t offer the benefits to all working mothers of newborns.
For example, temporary workers don’t receive cash benefits in Canada, home workers don’t get maternity leave in Norway and Switzerland, and some civil servants don’t get leave in Japan.
Canada also excludes migrant workers and moms that own more than 40 percent of their business and it requires women to have at least 600 hours of insurable employment to be eligible.
There’s a wrinkle that makes Beyer’s statement a slightly different from Obama’s comment on maternity leave. Beyer uses the phrase "family leave," which can be interpreted as including paid time off for fathers.
In the U.S. dads, just like moms, have a right to time off, but it’s not paid. The ILO worldwide data on fathers is not as extensive as on mothers, but suggests most developed nations offer paternity leave benefits.
Amy Raub, a principal research assistant at the World Policy Analysis Center at UCLA told us a handful of other developed countries, in addition to the U.S., don’t provide paid time off for fathers.
Beyer says the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee parents paid time off to care for their newborns.
To a very large extent, he’s right. The U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t mandate paid leave for working mothers, according to United Nations’ statistics.
But there are two footnotes to Beyer’s statement: 1) Many nations that mandate paid maternity leave don’t offer the benefit to all moms and; 2) There are a handful of developed nations in addition to the U.S. that don’t offer paid paternity leave.
So we rate Beyer’s statement Mostly True.
Friends of Don Beyer, Issues, accessed Aug. 19, 2014.
Emails from Tia Shuyler, spokeswoman for Don Beyer’s congressional campaign, Aug. 19 and Aug. 22, 2014.
PolitiFact, "Barack Obama says U.S. differs from developed world on paid maternity leave," June 23, 2014.
National Public Radio, "Time with a newborn: Maternity leave policies around the world," Aug. 8, 2011.
The International Labour Organization, "Maternity and paternity at work, Law and practice across the world,"summary, 2014.
International Labour Organization, "Maternity and paternity at work, Law and practice across the world," full report, 2014.
The U.S. Department of Labor, "Family and Medical Leave Act," accessed on Aug.20, 2014.
U.S. Department of Labor "Frequently Asked Questions" about the Family and Medical Leave Act," accessed on Aug. 202, 2014.
PolitiFact Oregon, "Is paid maternity leave really the standard around the world?" May 8, 2013.
The New York Times, "For Virginia’s Don Beyer, Obama is still a positive," June 9, 2014.
Pew Charitable Trusts, "Among 38 nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave," Dec. 12, 2013.
E-mail from Amy Raub, principal research analyst at the World Policy Analysis Center at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Aug. 21, 2014.
Interview with Ariane Hegewisch, study director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Aug. 21, 2014.
E-mail from Ariane Hegewisch, Aug. 21, 2014.
World Policy Analysis Center at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, "Is paid leave available to fathers of infants?" accessed Aug. 22, 2014.
World Policy Analysis Center at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, "Is paid leave available for mothers of infants?" accessed Aug. 22, 2014.
CIA World Factbook, "Developed countries," accessed Aug. 22, 2014.
The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, "Key characteristics of parental leave systems," accessed Aug. 22, 2014.
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