Paid maternity leave push underway at U.S. Labor Department

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The Obama administration wants to remind Americans that the United States is the only developed country without laws providing paid maternity leave.

A new video from the U.S. Labor Department compares two pregnant women who work full time and share the same due date. One will get 14 weeks of paid leave because she lives in Germany. The other will get none because she lives here. The video is part of the #LeadOnLeave campaign.

"We have for too long discounted the importance of motherhood," said Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, executive director of Indiana University's National Center of Excellence in Women's Health.

Some workers are eligible for 12 weeks of parental leave thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, but the leave is unpaid and workers are only eligible if they are employed by a big company of government agency.

"Only 12 percent of all private sector women actually have paid maternity leave, and even then, they don't necessary take that time," said Rohr-Kirchgraber.

Rohr-Kirchgraber says for new mothers working hourly without paid maternity leave, many are back to work just ten days after giving birth.

"That is not enough time to recover from consequences from giving birth."

Jenni Hughes is thankful for twelve weeks of maternity leave from her Indianapolis employer. Hughes understands her maternity leave is an exception, not the standard.

"I am fortunate to work at a place that is supportive of my health and my family.  As a new mom, I am supportive of empowering moms and supporting maternal health, said Hughes.

The #LeadOnLeave campaign will explore options for maternity leave. The U.S. Labor Department is awarding half a million dollars to help three states and the District of Columbia conduct feasibility studies on new paid leave policies.