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Our Parental Leave System

Parental leave is a leave of absence from a job to allow a new parent to care for a child, be it a newborn or recently adopted child. Parental leave is often considered an employee right and is guaranteed in most countries, the United States being one of the few exceptions.

There are two main types of paternal leave: maternity and paternity leave. Maternity leave is granted to mothers around and after the time of childbirth or adoption, while paternity leave is provided for fathers at the same time. Although taking leave to care for a child is becoming increasingly common among fathers, mothers continue to be the majority users of parental leave. 

The United States is currently the only developed country that does not federally mandate employers to provide paid parental leave. According to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, new parents in the United States are allowed three months of unpaid time off.

However, a study on unpaid leave policies revealed the “limited effect” of such policies. Parents often do not use their unpaid leave for the full three months, as it is unaffordable for most people to forgo three months of income.


Han, Wen-Jui, and Jane Waldfogel. “Parental Leave: The Impact of Recent Legislation on Parents’ Leave Taking.” Demography, 1 Feb. 2003, doi:

Family and Medical Leave Act. U.S. Department of Labor,

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