Sometimes it seems hard to believe that a religious institution would tackle issues of modern parenthood before the U.S. government would, and yet — here we are in 2017 where that's exactly what's happened. On Wednesday, the Mormon Church began offering paid maternity leave to Church employees for the first time in the institution's 187-year history. The new paid maternity leave benefit was announced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to employees, along with several other human resource benefits changes and updates — and all for the better. This is a huge step forward for the Mormon Church, but the fact the United States does not offer universal paid parental leave shows that our country still has a long way to go.
Full-time Mormon Church employees with benefits will now be eligible for the following paid leave, according to The Washington Post: Female employees who give birth will be eligible for up to six weeks' paid maternity leave, while fathers may receive up to one week paid paternity leave for the birth of a child. As for adoption, mothers and fathers may each receive up to one week paid parental leave. While the Mormon Church's new paid parental leave policy may not be as generous as the paid leave policies of other American companies, it's still an important and necessary move in a country with a horrible record on paid parental leave.
According to NPR's All Things Considered, the United States ranks dead last on paid parental leave compared to its peers in the developed world. While the Family and Medical Leave Act provides job protection for parents and caregivers — covering everything from maternity and paternity leave to other medical issues affecting family members — it comes at a price, and a steep one at that: the FMLA guarantees you'll keep your job while you're out on parental leave, but not your paycheck during that time.
Currently, the United States does not have a federal paid parental leave policy. President Trump's daughter, Ivanka, campaigned hard for one such policy while her father was on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, Trump's paid parental leave policy proposal — which was included in the president's federal budget — leaves a lot of room to be desired.
Trump's first stab at paid parental leave completely excluded fathers and adoptive parents, which his administration's second attempt on the policy made sure to include. But the total paid leave policy from Trump sits at just six weeks, favoring wealthier families who can already afford unpaid leave if they have to, as opposed to low-income families who need paid leave the most, as noted by the non profit PL+US: Paid Leave for the United States. According to Fortune, however, the broadness of the policy, wide latitude given to states' implementation, and its $19 billion price tag will make Trump's paid leave policy virtually impossible to pass.
For now, it's up to individual states to craft their own paid leave laws; New York just became the fourth state to mandate such a policy last year, joining California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia. But if you're not fortunate enough to live or work in these states, it's up to individual organizations and businesses to regulate paid leave for their employee. Props to the Mormon Church for seeing the light on paid leave — and here's hoping our government will soon see it, too.