With the existing Family and Medical Leave Act passed in 1993, women nationwide can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave while keeping the same health insurance. People in just a handful of states — California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and, soon, New York — are covered by some kind of paid family and medical leave laws. However, there is currently no nationwide, uniform program in place.

According to National Partnership for Women & Families, 86 percent of people working for private companies in the United States do not have access to paid family leave through their jobs, with nearly one in four new moms back at work within two weeks of giving birth. The National Partnership for Women & Families is working with leaders in politics and business to make 12 weeks of paid family leave (for women and men) the nationwide status quo, advocating a program funded through minimal employee and employer contributions at less than $1.50 per week for a typical worker.

A new public-service announcement featuring a 260-week pregnant woman, titled “A Long Five Years,” launched this week urges citizens to contact Congressional representatives to fight for and create a uniform, 12-week nationwide paid family leave policy.

Allyson Downey, author of “Here’s the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career Through Pregnancy & Parenthood” gives new mothers strategic game plans to be persistent, creative and clever about creating more productive family leave time after having a baby, even if one’s employer does not have an ideal leave plan in place. To start, see her “17 Questions to Ask HR About Maternity Leave” worksheet here.

Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor, appearing on CBS Los Angeles every Wednesday on News at 5pm and Friday mornings at 6:45am. Her personal blog is TheFabMom.com. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillsimonian and connect with her on Facebook.


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