Co-workers have found a thoughtful way to support new moms and enable them to have paid maternity leave by donating their own vacation time. Angela Hughes of Kansas City, Missouri, is one such mom. In a segment on Good Morning America, she talked about how co-workers, including her boss, rallied around her, donating enough of their own paid vacation time to allow her to have eight weeks paid maternity leave — almost all from donations.
Hughes found out she was pregnant just two weeks after beginning the job. Despite saving every bit of vacation time for when she'd give birth, her daughter was born two months early and the time she'd banked wasn't nearly enough.
That's when her boss and co-workers decided to rally around her, donating their paid vacation time in lieu of the standard baby shower gifts.
Hughes told Good Morning America:
It took a weight off of my family’s shoulder. Having a baby is a huge adjustment anyway but having a premature baby, my emotions were all over the place. It really, really meant a lot to me. I was very surprised because I had not been with the company very long. I was extremely appreciative and very humbled.
While her co-workers' generosity was lovely, many people called out the underlying problem that made that generosity necessary.
People were angry at how the U.S. fails to treat workers fairly:
Alternative headline: America’s lack of federal paid maternity leave forces co-workers to donate vacation time to new mothers.— Neil Turner (@nrturner) July 20, 2018
The US is such an outlier on this. Almost every other country in the world, even those like Iran and Saudi Arabia, have paid maternity leave. https://t.co/CyGe7Y7dbT
This is not a "heartwarming story". It shows a morally banktrupt country.— Tzippy Shmilovitz (@Tzipshmil) July 19, 2018
EMPLOYEES: Can we have decent paid maternity leave?— Josh Patton (@patton_josh) July 19, 2018
BOSS: No, but you can donate your vacation days when someone has a baby. Then you can be mad at your co-workers for being selfish if they don't instead of me for being greedy.
E: That sounds bad.
B: I think you mean "trendy."
Aside from Papua New Guinea, the U.S. is the only country in the developed world without a paid family leave policy, according to Good Morning America. Anyone working in a company with 50 or more employees is entitled to 12 weeks of maternity — but it is unpaid. For most people earning a modest hourly wage, there's no way to take time off because they cannot afford the lost pay.
Hughes is not alone in her story. Other new moms around the country have also found themselves in the same situation, and co-workers have helped by donating their vacation time.
Some have even used crowdfunding to take time off.
Our government officials want us to spend all our earnings on health care expenses and vacation time on maternity/paternity leave! 😬😳😭🤬— ➱ (@unicodeutf8) July 19, 2018
Kerry Norbury was Hughes' boss at the time. She donated 80 hours of her own vacation time.
She told GMA:
It was the right thing to do. And I had the time and I wanted to give her what I could. And if it made life a little bit simpler for her then why wouldn't I do that?
This boggles my mind. As a Canadian, I was provided year-long maternity leaves for the first year of my children's lives. I can't imagine my co-workers feeling the necessity to donate their own precious time off to gift me the chance to be there for... https://t.co/eAJxkDOukX— Care 🎙 (@careonair) July 19, 2018
Dude, like... if people are making programs where co-workers can donate their vacation time to someone for maternity leave or like... using crowdfunding sites to help pay medical bills... uuuuhhh...— Brad Flick (@bradflick55) July 19, 2018
Why don't we just have paid maternity leave and universal healthcare? https://t.co/fy0VyPa9d9
Of course there are always a few bootstrapping naysayers:
This is a consensual relationship between 2 parties. The employee willingly decided to work for the employer at the stated rate of compensation. If the employee wanted to be compensated differently, the employee should have found an employer that would provide said compensation.— John Rearden (@Rearden_Mettle) July 19, 2018
This comment says it all:
Can’t afford your med bills?? Set up a GoFund Me!— Megan (@Meggymegs25) July 19, 2018
Your full-time job doesn’t pay enough to live? Become an Uber driver!
Need time for you/your body to recover and adjust to caring for a human child? Have your co-workers donate their hard-earned vacation days!
F this system. https://t.co/rgPb3Ne9nW