Of course, if I am lambasted and made a social outcast by this post, maybe not ...
Disclaimer: I think that parental leave is a very important issue, and that it's clear the U.S. needs to get their act together - and I think fathers need as much access to it as mothers do.
Having said that, I think that employers also need to determine how to deal with the work not being done while someone is on maternity leave.
Of the seven times I've been working with someone who has taken maternity leave, there has been only one time when that person came back to work full-time after the official leave time was up. The others either quit over the phone the day before they were supposed to return (for real - they were able to get the full benefit), or extended their leaves indefinitely, right before or after returning to work.
As someone who has taken up to eight weeks for medical leave, I fully understand that it's inconvenient for co-workers and employers. Either the work doesn't get done at all, because you are the only one who knows your position (my case), or someone else has to do their work and yours for the time period when you are out.
Currently though, there is a situation at work that is making my days miserable. One of my co-workers took maternity leave beginning on December 5, 2016. She was due to be back on March 6, 2017. During the time she was gone, I was told (not asked, not suggested) that I would be doing her job as well as mine (which is already a job that four people used to do). No extra pay, of course.
In the spirit of being supportive, and knowing that people had to deal with me being out on medical leave a few years back, I did my very best between December and March. I was not allowed to take any days off that were not already scheduled, which was a pain, and when I broke my ankle and DARED to be out for two days, I was reminded of the importance of being at work. Blah blah blah.
March 6 arrived, and the co-worker returned. At a departmental staff meeting on March 8, it was announced that the co-worker missed her baby too much and didn't want to put him in day care all of the time, so she would be coming in for 1-2 days a week "indefinitely." She is still considered full-time and being paid and getting benefits as such. Nice work if you can get it, if you ask me.
I then asked our boss (privately) what this meant for my workload, and it was like I was speaking Ubangi or something. What did I mean? Of course I would keep doing her work, she is at home with a baby! She will be "working from home" a lot and "checking in." (She is a person who deals with the public all day, every day, btw.) They can't afford to hire someone to fill in for her, and don't have any extra funding anyway. So I will be continuing in the current situation "indefinitely."
When I was on medical leave, I did not receive any pay or benefits, so went back to work as soon as it was at all possible, and was not given a part-time option. I completely understand that my co-worker finds it hard to leave her baby, I'm sure it is. I'm sure she is also exhausted a lot of the time. I know her life has changed dramatically.
But again, I'm stuck. And frankly, I'm annoyed about it. HR says it's not an "HR issue," and even a friend of mine said that I should not be complaining because someone was extending *maternity* leave! Because, as I'm told whenever a co-worker with kids gets time off and I don't, "I don't have a family, and they do." (Apparently The Tim and the kit kats are bogus family.)
Employers need to realize that maternity/paternity leave is essential for the employees directly involved, but also for those picking up for them as well. I am barely able to complete any of my work, and I refuse to start working longer hours because of this.
OK, I may have lost a lot of you here, and if so, I'm sorry. But it's unfair, and frankly I'm royally sick of it.
If you are still here, thanks for reading to the end, regardless of your feelings. I'll try harder next time to post something less bitchy. :-)