Research Shows Weak Family Leave Policies in Most Catholic Dioceses Across the US

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

Isabella Volmert, Kelly Sankowski and Renée Roden write:

FemCatholic reached out to the 176 dioceses across all 50 states and Washington, D.C., to confirm their family leave policies. Through telephone interviews with current and former diocesan employees, FemCatholic ascertained that 31 dioceses offer fully paid maternity leave policies, 32 provide some percentage of employee salaries through either short-term disability or state paid leave laws, and 44 do not offer any paid leave.

This data includes the 58 policies we were able to confirm with diocesan representatives, as well as information collected from employee handbooks and diocesan websites. 98 dioceses did not respond by press time, and 20 dioceses declined to provide answers or confirmation. The policies represented apply specifically to the central offices of the diocese – which often excludes parishes, schools or charitable agencies.

The length of the fully paid leave in U.S. Catholic dioceses ranges from five days to 12 weeks, with only four dioceses offering 12 weeks of fully paid leave. These diocesan policies broadly reflect overall national trends. Only 23% of Americans have access to paid parental leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The United States is the sole member country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that does not offer working women at least 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Germany, one of Europe’s most populous countries, offers 12 weeks of paid leave. Canada offers mothers one year of leave, 39 weeks paid. The United Kingdom offers 52 weeks and provides mothers with state-funded childcare from the age of three until the child begins school….

Given the United States’ position as the only member state of the United Nations without national paid leave, the Catholic Church in the United States has the opportunity to be “a prophetic voice,” one former diocesan employee from the Mid-Atlantic Region, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

“To be able to say, ‘We are going to advocate for this; we are going to model it. This is a good place to work,’” the employee said. “‘We will show you that a holistic life of work and family and prayer can go together, and that is what makes up a Catholic life.’”…

Studies consistently show that paid maternity leave clearly benefits women’s health. Just eight weeks of paid maternity leave has been shown to decrease the symptoms and severity of postpartum depression by 15%. Paid leave also lowers the incidences of rehospitalization after giving birth from complications, according to a study published recently in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

The United States currently has the highest rate of maternal mortality among developed nations, and it increased in 2020 – exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Black women are three times more likely than white women to die from a pregnancy-related condition.

Paid maternity leave is also critical for the health of the newborn and reduces infant mortality by 12%, according to a 2020 study. Babies need time with their mothers, and paying mothers to stay with them bears fruit in a cornucopia of physical and developmental benefits.

Read their full report: here.