Lately, the internet has been abuzz with chatter over what it means to be a parent in the work place.

Much of it was ignited by AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong’s comment last month regarding two AOL employees who each gave birth to pre-term high-risk babies that allegedly cost the company $1 million dollars each. Armstrong originally stated that in lieu of the babies’ costly hospital stays and the induction of the Affordable Care Act – he was going to cut back on the matching amount of his employees’ 410K packages. Fortunately, after a lot of backlash and protesting, he retracted his decision and AOL’s benefits now remain as they were before.

With our country in the midst of a health care revolution, it’s crucial to consider the security and stability of employee maternity and paternity leave benefits. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which was passed in 1978, states that companies with 15 or more people must ensure every pregnant woman is entitled to the same health benefits as all other employees and will be assured her job upon return. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was passed in 1993, went beyond these conditions, and ensures that if you’re an employee at a company with 50 or more people and have been working there for at least a year, you’re guaranteed 12 job-protected unpaid weeks of maternity leave. The tragic thing is that only 60% of the US’s businesses are legally required to distribute benefits under the FMLA. An even more daunting figure is that only 35% of women are employed at companies that even pledge paid maternity leave.

This is all barely comforting information. How is a woman supposed to support herself and a new child if she’s not working? The average parents spend $12,000 on their baby’s first year of life. Imagine what that year is like if you have no income and no health insurance.

In scope of world statistics, the US’s parental leave rights pale in comparison to policies in many European and Asian countries. South Korea gives both parents partial paid leave for up to a year. Japan grants each parent job security for a year of unpaid leave. New Zealand will pay 100% of a new parent’s salary for 14 weeks and allows 38 weeks of unpaid leave. Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and Romania all give 18 weeks of leave that pay 85-100% of their working salary. In Sweden, both parents receive 480 days of leave and 390 of those are paid at 80% of their salary.

In the last ten years, there have been only three states to pass paid family leave laws: California, New Jersey and Washington. Both California and New Jersey laws require employees receive 6 weeks of partially paid parental leave, California will pay new parents 55% of their regular salary and New Jersey will pay 66%. Due to lack of funds, Washington’s law probably won’t go into effect until 2015 but their workers will receive $250 a week for five weeks.

Some people are taking pregnancy budgeting to the test. Meaghan O’Connell, the co-editor at the finance blog, The Billfold, recently wrote a distressing but funny list of purchases during her first three months of pregnancy that total up to $4,113.94. Her spending isn’t superfluous ($395 for four weeks of birthing classes) but she isn’t being frugal either ($32 for a pregnancy pillow) – and why should she? Having a baby is the most critical time to be generous and considerate towards your body for the sake of the future well being of your family.

There are some high-flying tech companies that are strengthening their health benefits policies, intending to make the transition into parenthood a very easy one. Google allows new mothers to take up to 22 weeks of paid maternity leave and non-birthing parents are given seven paid weeks. They’ll also give new parents $500 in “baby cash”, priority parking spots and office high chairs. Facebook ensures four months of paid leave for both parents and $4,000 in “baby cash”. Yahoo CEO, Marissa Meyer, who ironically only took two weeks off after giving birth, extended the company’s parental leave policy to eight paid weeks for either parent along with $500 in “baby cash”.

It’s not just tech companies that are prioritizing new parents’ needs. Clif Bar and Genentech realized not so long ago that providing onsite childcare facilities boosts company moral and increases productivity and reduces turnover. Clif has a 6,700 square foot childcare center called the Clif Base Camp which hosts children from six months to six years. Parents are given the piece of mind and convenience of their children being nearby. Clif also provides seminars and workshops for new parents facilitated by published and esteemed parenting experts. Genentech has one the country’s largest on-site childcare centers – over 20,000 square feet and boasting 13 classrooms and private nursing rooms. Most onsite care centers are partially subsidized by employees. On average workers are encouraged to pay anywhere from $125-225 a year for childcare services – whether they’re parents or not.

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