Forget the traditional office pool to buy an expectant coworker a car seat or stroller. The new trend is to give a mom-to-be some of your own vacation time to add days to her maternity leave.
Angela Hughes, of Kansas City, Missouri, was less than a year into her job in the registrar’s office of a private college when her daughter was born two months early.
Hughes did not qualify for any paid maternity leave because she was so new at her job. She said she never took a day off during her entire pregnancy so she could save as much vacation time as possible for after the baby was born.
Her boss, sensing her stress, donated 80 hours of her own paid time off to Hughes through a policy at the college allowing the practice. More coworkers followed suit and, in the end, Hughes had eight weeks of paid maternity leave, almost all of which was donated by coworkers.
“It took a weight off of my family’s shoulder,” Hughes of the donated vacation time. “Having a baby is a huge adjustment anyway but having a premature baby, my emotions were all over the place.”
The United States is the only country among 41 industrialized nations that does not mandate paid maternity leave, according to 2016 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Things are looking up for some new moms, but it depends on the employer. The prevalence of paid maternity leave increased significantly between 2016 and 2018, from 26 percent to 35 percent, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2018 Employee Benefits Survey.
The decision on whether or not to allow employees to donate their paid time off is left up to individual employers and governments.