Learning From Sweden

The New York Times - Juno Turner [to the editor]
June 19, 2010

The practices featured in ”Paternity Leave Law Helps to Redefine Masculinity in Sweden” (news article, June 15) stand in stark contrast to the current state of paid parental leave in the United States.

While parents in Sweden enjoy 13 months of paid leave — two of which are reserved exclusively for fathers — and a guaranteed job upon their return, working parents here are lucky if they receive any paid leave at all.

Worse, many women, and growing numbers of men, find themselves sidelined and stereotyped after they return to work and try to balance competing work and family demands.

Frequently pushed out or marginalized, these parents are increasingly turning to the courts, filing complaints of discrimination based on stereotypes associated with their family responsibilities.

Although some of Sweden’s policies may be too much for today’s American political climate, our legislators should examine the Swedish model — and its associated lower divorce rate and improved earnings for women — for aspects that might be successfully instituted here.

Until employers realize that truly family-friendly policies are good for business (and good for their employees), employees will have little choice but to try to right these wrongs through litigation.

Juno Turner, New York, June 17, 2010

The writer is an employment lawyer in New York.