Maternity Policies and Working Women

A. Kahn, S. Kamerman, and P.W. Kingston Maternity Policies and Working Women, New York: Columbia University Press, 1983

This book offers the first systematic study of maternity policies in the United States today. It studies the rights some working wome have and the benefits they receive from their employers when they are pregnant and give birth. Among these are health and medical insurance, job-protected leaves including protection of seniority and pension rights, wage replacement while on leave, and other provisions that make maternity manageable for women who work.

This study goes well beyond fact-finding, however, and it asks some hard questions. Are working women, their families, and their babies protected at the time of childbirth? What kind of protection exists, for whom, and how good is it? Are maternity benefits very costly? Do maternity leaves create problems for employers at the workplace? If so, how do they manage? How important are maternity benefits anyway-for women, for children, for families, and for the rest of us. The answers to these questions will open the eyes of many readers and give them a disturbing sense of the need for a careful rethinking of present policy.

Many people, the authors show, seem to assume that almost all working women today are protected at the time of childbirth, but that view is entirely wrong. Protection-from either public or private sources-is not nearly as extensive as most people think. This study demonstrates how the nature of American national maternity policy leaves most women with far less protection than in any of no less than seventy-five other countries, including all other developed industrializes societies and any among the less developed countries. Policy planners, government officials, health professionals, social welfare workers, and thoughtful citizens everywhere will find here an invaluable summary and critique of American policy and, perhaps, a call to effect necessary and long overdue changes.

"This is an important and valuable book and it has no rival. At this point in our history it is critical that attention be drawn to the subject it covers."
-- George W. Silver, Professor of Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine.