One-year-old August Egmar doesn’t understand maps or time zones, yet geography has had a tremendous impact on his life.
Several years ago, his Seattle-born mother Alexis McCabe and Swedish father Magnus Egmar fell in love while attending the University of Nevada.
When Egmar’s visa expired, they decided to settle in Sweden. That decision has transformed August’s first months of life. That’s because Swedish parents are eligible for 480 days of parental leave – the majority at 80 per cent of their normal pay. By contrast, the majority of American mothers are eligible for just 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S is the “only country to offer no statutory entitlement to paid leave on a national basis.”
“I feel so lucky. I had 14 months off with him,” McCabe said of her son. “And I had two months off before I delivered him.”
Watch below: Parents Alexis McCabe and Magnus Egmar describe how they’ve benefited from Sweden’s policy on parental leave.
Jessica Klem’s experience on maternity leave in Los Angeles, Calif. was much different. She says as a resident of that state she was eligible for 12 weeks at about 50 per cent of her normal pay.
While some employers top up, the TV producer’s company did not so she had to return to work when her daughter was three months old to make ends meet.
Watch below: Mother Jessica Klem describes the challenges of a 12-week maternity leave in the U.S.
Parents will need to stretch out their Employment Insurance benefits, opting to receive a lower rate of 33 per cent of average weekly earnings for 18 months. Parents may also choose to stick with the 12-month leave at a benefit rate of 55 per cent.
The maximum payout is $543 per week. Spreading that out to 18 months works out to a maximum of $362 per week.
-With files from Tania Kohut, Global News.