Center for American Progress

RELEASE: In the Absence of U.S. Paid Leave Policies, Multinational Corporations Take Action
Press Release

RELEASE: In the Absence of U.S. Paid Leave Policies, Multinational Corporations Take Action

Washington, D.C. — For workers in the United States, paid time off for family caregiving or to tend to a personal illness is a perk for the privileged. Overseas, it is a right.

As a new issue brief by the Center for American Progress illustrates, the lack of U.S. paid leave policy is a burden for multinational corporations and their employees. The brief also demonstrates how, in the absence of national paid leave legislation, human resource departments at multinational corporations are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. Although that is good news for some employees, it is no guarantee that all workers have access to paid family leave.

“Our lack of paid leave is a national embarrassment,” said Judith Warner, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the issue brief. “Young foreign professionals who are eager to start a family have to think twice before relocating to the United States and for American employees living abroad, coming home to have a baby can bring a very rude awakening.”

Multinational corporations—companies registered and operating in more than one country at a time—must comply with the laws of the countries in which they operate. Normally, multinational companies’ paid leave policies follow or build upon statutory requirements set by government policy.

However, multinational corporations operating in the United States—the only advanced economy that does not guarantee any paid time off for mothers to care for a new child—face a highly unusual situation.

In the absence of national legislation, individual employees often have to negotiate paid leave in an ad hoc way. This places a distinct burden on workers that colleagues in other countries may not experience. A pregnant employee in the United States, for example, may face the prospect of no more than 12 weeks of unpaid leave while a colleague in Germany who has equal standing and seniority can look forward to 14 fully paid weeks.

To quell discontent, a growing number of multinationals now offer global paid leave policies that set minimum standards for employees in all nations. But companies operating in the United States have to foot the bill for these policies on their own. With no legal requirement to provide paid leave and no national social insurance model to widely distribute the cost, it is not surprising that so many companies operating in the United States simply follow the minimum requirements of the federal Family Medical Leave Act and state legislation.

To bring paid leave to all workers, policymakers must adopt national paid family leave legislation. A strong national policy must be available to all workers, comprehensive and specific in addressing serious family and medical needs, affordable and cost-effective, inclusive of diverse families, and available without adverse employment consequences.

Read the issue brief: In the Absence of U.S. Action on Paid Leave Multinationals Make Their Own Policies by Judith Warner and Danielle Corley

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For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at or 202.478.5328.