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December 01, 2009
U.S. 'Lags Far Behind' 150 Countries in Paid Leave Policies

More than 150 countries around the world guarantee that workers receive paid annual leave, sick leave, and maternity leave, according to a study by researchers at Harvard University and McGill University. The United States is among the minority of countries in the United Nations with no guarantee of paid leave for workers.

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The study found that 163 countries guarantee paid sick leave, 164 countries guarantee paid annual leave, and 177 countries guarantee maternity leave for new mothers. Seventy-four of those countries also offer paid leave for new fathers.

Opponents of laws that would require that employers offer paid leave to employees argue that such a mandate would hurt the competitiveness of American businesses. However, the authors of the study disagree.

“The world's most successful and competitive nations are providing the supports the United States lacks, without harming their competitiveness,” says Jody Heymann, Founding Director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University. “There simply is no negative relationship at all between decent working conditions and competitiveness or job creation, Ensuring a floor of decent working conditions is crucial for the majority of Americans. The United States lags far behind most of the 190 countries whose labor laws we examined.”

In the United States, Democrats in Congress have proposed legislation that would require that employers offer paid sick leave to employees. The legislation (H.R.2460) would require employers to allow each employee to earn at least 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. The legislation has been in the House since May.

While there is no requirement currently at the federal level, three jurisdictions already require paid sick leave: the District of Columbia, San Francisco, and Milwaukee.

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