We believe that children are our future

The Ueno parental leave policy

Our COO, Tawny, keeping it cool while growing a human inside her.

I moved to the US about 2,5 years ago. I knew coming here that the parental leave options were not as good as in my native Iceland but I was still shocked to find out how bad they actually were.

Lets start with the amazing fact that the US is one of only four countries on the planet with no federally mandated paid paternity leave!

The options vary by state (with California making the most improvements, while still being very far from adequate) but the federal policy is a 12 week unpaid (yes, unpaid) leave for mothers. In order to receive maternity leave, employees must work at a company with 50 or more employees, maintain employment with the same business for 12 months and have accumulated at least 1,250 working hours over those 12 months.

As you can imagine many women are not eligible. It’s also worth noting that the secondary caregiver is not given any leave (paid or otherwise) and the challenges for non-cis families are even greater. To top it off, parents can (and often do) loose their health insurance when they are on parental leave.

Compare that to my native country of Iceland where the combined right to paid (yes, paid) parental leave is 9 months. Each parent has a right to 3 months and they can decide how they split the remaining 3 months. This applies to any birth but also to adoptions and miscarriages. And to spread the load and make this sustainable for any type of company, the state pays for the parental leave, not the companies themselves.

It’s worth noting that other countries have even better policies with Sweden offering a combined 480 days of paid leave to new parents!

The current non-policy is devastating for US families with the poor taking the biggest hit since their fallback options are very limited.

The lack of adequate parental leave has a profound impact on the health of children and is among other things linked to higher rates of infant mortality. Loosing health care can have terrible implications and with many families living paycheck to paycheck, the lost income of going on unpaid leave is a thought that a lot of parents can’t even entertain.

The list is endless. The current non-policy is hurting our children and their parents in too many ways to count.

Anyway, that was my rant. Now to the point.

Ueno has decided to roll out a parental leave policy that takes small steps (you might call them baby steps) in the right directions. I say small because I honestly don’t believe this is good enough and I really hope we can improve this policy as we grow. As a small company our options are somewhat limited since unlike most countries the costs of these policies mostly fall on the companies, not the state.

Our new policy includes:

  • 3 month paid parental leave for the primary care giver.
  • 8 week paid parental leave for the secondary care giver.
  • Uninterrupted medical insurance coverage for parents.
  • A 6 month guarantee to return to the same or similar role once they return.

We have also joined the Pledge Parental Leave program, an organization that is helping set the standard for paid leave benefits in the U.S. creative industry.

We hope this will cause a spike in new babies at Ueno and that our people can decide to make their families as big or as small as they want without having to worry too much about the financial implications.