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Best baby shower gift: paid time off for new parents

Key Points
  • The U.S. lags other countries when it comes to parental leave rights.
  • Now, 15 percent of employers allow workers to donate their paid time off to other workers.
Fiona Goodall | Getty Images

For many new parents, the experience of welcoming a child comes with only a brief break from the daily grind.

In federal offices, one of the most popular baby shower gifts is personal days, according to a recent report in The Washington Post. Co-workers donate them so a new mom can extend her leave beyond six weeks after giving birth.

Currently, 15 percent of employers allow workers to donate their paid time off to other workers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management's upcoming employee benefits survey, which will be released on June 19.

Getting paid family leave depends on the workplace

"The way we support or don't support new mothers and fathers makes it really hard," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute. "It's a house of cards that people patch together to build the arrangements for their child."

The rising tide of generous policies in corporate America has helped, but still, the U.S. lags other countries when it comes to parental leave.

It's a house of cards that people patch together to build the arrangements for their child.
Ellen Galinsky
president of the Families and Work Institute

In this country, 1 in 4 moms returns to work just 10 days after childbirth, according to the non-profit PL+US, which advocates for paid family leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act requires 12 weeks of guaranteed leave for maternity, paternity, adoption and medical caregiving, but there is no law requiring employers to offer any pay.

In fact, the U.S. is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to the Pew Research center based on data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

There are several different types of leave available to new parents:
• Maternity leave for mothers after a baby is born or adopted.
• Paternity leave for fathers around the same time.
• Parental leave, which is typically available after maternity or paternity leave.

Just a handful of states, including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York, have adopted a paid family and medical leave policy. (Earlier this year, President Donald Trump's budget proposal included six weeks' leave for new mothers and fathers, including those who adopt.)

More from Personal Finance:
Trump's budget calls for six weeks' paid family leave
While paid leave increases for dads, many don't take it
GOP senators weigh plan to raid Social Security for paid family leave

In almost half of two-parent households, both parents now work full-time, and in 40 percent of all families with children, the mother is the sole or primary breadwinner, according to Pew.

Work constraints are one of the reasons women cite for postponing children and having fewer kids overall. Women are having an average of 1.8 kids today, down from 3.7 in 1960, according to the Census Bureau.

And, for the first time ever, women in their 30s are having more children than those in their 20s, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.