Maternity Leave: How the Richest Companies Treat Parents

By Rachel Monroe

Every country in the world guarantees new mothers paid leave -- except Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea, and the United States. The most common explanation is that we just can't afford it. But when countries with less robust economies -- everywhere from Mongolia to Morocco to Mali -- find a way to provide assistance to new moms, we probably can, too. 
The Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993, mandates at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new parents. "For years before we passed Family and Medical Leave, there was an outcry that the U.S. economy would not survive," Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told AOL earlier this year. "Not only did it survive, but it thrived." But these days, just over half of working women (51 percent) in the U.S. receive some sort of paid leave, though it's often just a few weeks. 
If anyone can afford to support new parents, it should be the country's largest employers. We took a look at the parental leave policies of some of our nation's richest corporations to see how their paid parental leave policies measure up. Here's the list, from worst to best:

Wal-Mart - $469.2 billion in revenues; $16.999 billion in profits (per Fortune)

0 weeks (?)

As far as I could tell from my research, Wal-Mart does not offer paid maternity leave. They did not respond to my emails asking for confirmation.

General Electric - $146.9 billion in revenue; $13.641 billion in profits

2 weeks

Or "up to two weeks"  -- for both moms and dads, and adoptive parents count, too. Mothers who are medically deemed "disabled" because of pregnancy-related conditions can qualify for income replacement. The policies apply to same-sex couples and employees who've been at GE for at least a year, and who work at least 20 hours a week.

ExxonMobil - $449.9 billion in revenue; $44.880 billion in profits

6-26 weeks, depending on years of service

Maternity leave is covered as a part of the company's disability insurance program, and depend on years of service. Maternity leave that's tied to disability benefits also mean that a doctor must certify the mother as unable to work -- and that fathers and adoptive parents don't qualify.

General Motors - $152.3 billion in revenue; $6.188 billion in profits

6-8 weeks, with a doctor's note

"Expectant mothers covered under disability leave policies, which are typically six to eight weeks." Only unpaid paternity and adoption leave (though they provide $5,000 in adoption assistance per child). The policies apply to same-sex couples and to part-time workers. 

Ford Motor - $134.3 billion in revenue; $5.665 billion in profits

8 weeks, with a doctor's note

Those two months of paid leave are in accordance with Ford's disability leave policies, and dependant on a doctor's recommendation. Unpaid paternity/adoption leave; $5,000 in adoption assistance per child. Policies apply to same-sex couples and part-time workers.

Google - $52.2 billion in revenue; $10.737 billion in profits

22 weeks

What is this, Norway!? -- but dads and/or adoptive parents only get 7 weeks. The policies apply to same-sex couples and part-time employees.

For comparison purposes, here are some legally mandated leave policies in other countries:

Norway - 36 weeks of paid leave at 100 percent of wages or 46 weeks at 80 percent
Albania - 1 year of paid leave at 80 percent of wages
Poland - 20 weeks of paid leave (100 percent of wages)
Australia - 18 weeks of paid leave for each parent (100 percent of wages)
Austria, France, Spain, the Netherlands - 16 weeks of paid leave (100 percent of wages)
Germany - 14 weeks of paid leave (100 percent of wages)
image: © Michel Borges -
Rachel Monroe is a freelance writer based in Marfa, Texas.  A contributor to Baltimore's Fishbowl, Monroe has taught writing at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland University College, and lived in Morocco for a year on a Fulbright fellowship.