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Is it ethical to use maternity leave if I don't intend to resume w

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miseleigh
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Well, the title pretty much says it all. I have been with my company for a year and a half, and in 2 months I will either take (paid) maternity leave upon the birth of my daughter, or I may quit entirely. Part of the difficulty in this decision is that my husband and I are not yet certain that we will be financially stable without me working (that is the goal - my children will be my career) and so I may need to continue working here for some time anyway.

But if we determine that I do not need to continue working, is it ethical to quit after taking my maternity leave? Financially, it means two months of pay. However, I feel like it is a form of fraud to take so much paid leave from a job that I do not intend to resume, although it is something the company has agreed to provide. Maternity is fundamentally different from PTO in that PTO is something I earn along the way; maternity is something I am simply given, with no effort of my own, simply because I had a baby.

Do the ethical considerations change if I am still undecided whether to quit or not when the time comes?

I could use some help sorting this out.

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Is it ethical to use maternity leave at all? What code of values justifies employer's funding of rearing any child expect his own? Moreover, is it ethical to use state coercion in order to force an employer to pay maternity leave?

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We recently had a lady at my place of work who was up front about the possibility that she might not return. In her case, she had some doubts about whether she would want to leave her baby with someone else, or if she would want to stay home. She told her boss. Is this not an option for you?

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In general I don't see a moral problem with taking advantage of any benefits you might have as a result of a freely-negotiated employment contract. Employers are aware of the possibility that employees who take extended leave will not return. Large employers probably have better statistics on that than you do, and they factor them into the compensation plans they offer to their employees.

Even in the case of mandated leave I think you're OK as long as you oppose the existence of the mandate. (This is just another concrete application of the principle Rand discussed in her essay "The Question of Scholarships".) In such cases your interests and those of your employer have been forced into conflict by government action. The existence of the conflict is not your fault or your responsibility, so why should morality require you to sacrifice your interests in favor of your employers?

There might be value to you in discussing the issue up-front with your employer. If they value you as an employee they might be willing to negotiate a compromise, such as letting you work part-time on a flex schedule after your leave is up. Just be clear about what your interests are, and what your employers interests are, and where they overlap.

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Greebo and Leonid, while my employer is required by law to provide some maternity leave, they voluntarily provide more than what is required by law. Thus, if I decide to return, I would have no qualms about accepting paid leave. They have many employee benefits above and beyond what is required, and I assume that these benefits are offered for the same reasons they pay a salary. Many women would not want to work for a company that had no provisions for maternity leave. (I do not think the gov't should force an employer to provide it, however. I'm not new here, although I haven't posted in a very long time :D )

SoftwareNerd and Khaight, thank you. Although simply letting my boss know that I am undecided wouldn't resolve the issue for me (since he can't legally fire me, even if he thinks that's best), perhaps I have more options than simply returning to my job vs. quitting entirely.

Part of why I might be struggling with this is I had been thinking about maternity leave as something that my employer offers as a method of employee retention after the fact, but it's also something they offer as an attraction. Part of the reason I took this job was knowing that, when the time came, I'd be able to spend more time with my baby than I would working for many other employers. It seems much less like being a moocher that way, even if I do quit after taking leave, since part of the reason they offered it to begin with was to make the job more attractive to begin with.

Another part that makes it difficult though is that my department is already short-staffed. Should I eventually decide to quit, those two months could make a big difference for them in hiring a replacement and getting them trained. (This is a concern mostly because my husband works in the same department - his workload will increase as well.)

Edited by miseleigh
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We're missing some context here, so I'll have to make a pretty important assumption: You and your employer are rational individuals who have freely negotiated a contract (even if only implied) for employment. Maternity leave is a benefit, as such it is part of your total compensation - part of what your employer has agreed to voluntarily give up in order to convince you to work with him/her. Presumably your employer has had to reduce certain parts of your total compensation in order to provide you with his benefit (e.g. perhaps a slightly lower salary than a man's).

So, in essence, you've been paying for this benefit from day one of your employment. As such, future considerations are not really germane to the issue - you've paid for the benefit, and your employer voluntarily agreed to provide the benefit regardless of when it happened or what you decided to do after the birth. Degree of the benefit is not germane to the issue - your employer agreed to the amount of the benefit. You're not using force against anyone, nor are you demanding that someone else initiate force in order to satisfy your contract. It would be as immoral to refuse the benefit as it would be if you were to refuse your paycheck.

*edit - silly mistake

Edited by JeffS
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Even in the case of mandated leave I think you're OK as long as you oppose the existence of the mandate. (This is just another concrete application of the principle Rand discussed in her essay "The Question of Scholarships".) In such cases your interests and those of your employer have been forced into conflict by government action. The existence of the conflict is not your fault or your responsibility, so why should morality require you to sacrifice your interests in favor of your employers?

I agree with all the advices so far, makes sense if y'all can just be adults about it. Good test to see how they react. If they are dicks about it, then you have your answer vis a vis any fence sitting re THAT employer, eh? Works for you either way, I think.

But, but, but: I do take exception to to calling the idea of going along with graft a "principle". The point here is not one of ethics, but of a strictly political nature: Does your behavior sanction the bad behavior of others? If so, then you must weigh the political cost, i.e., the long term cost of inculcating government interference in economic issues. If you, and all those like you, (continue to) choose to accept the bureaucracy as given, then you strengthen it by default because THE POPULATION IS GROWING!

Bravo to all those who are entitled to "benefits", but realize that accepting them comes with a real cost. If it makes you feel yucky, it's likely because there is something yucky about it. What do you feel? Why do you feel it? Are your reasons rational? If so, then your feeling is valid, and you ought to consider what it is that you are trying to remind yourself of.

For my part, I am entitled to unemployment benefits at this juncture, but will not take them. Can't stomach it. It makes me think of lying to my friends and family to hide the fact if I were to do it! Not because I need the money, and would be embarassed for folk to know; in that case, I'd happily and honestly accept the handout I had earned. No, it's because I can't look at myself in the mirror with pleasure whilst implicitly supporting a system that strangles economic pursuits.

When Ayn Rand was asked why she paid taxes, she said, in effect: because people with guns force me to.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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... I am entitled to unemployment benefits at this juncture, but will not take them. Can't stomach it....
What if there was a tax rule saying that you could take a deductions tax because of some reason that you do not share with every other tax-payer: e.g. because you had a child, or because you were a certain age, or because you had adopted in that year, or because you spent a certain amount on home-mortgage interest. Would you equally not stomach that type of rule, and insist on not claiming that deduction? If you would take such deductions, what if there was a deduction for someone who has been unemployed?
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For my part, I am entitled to unemployment benefits at this juncture, but will not take them. Can't stomach it. It makes me think of lying to my friends and family to hide the fact if I were to do it! Not because I need the money, and would be embarassed for folk to know; in that case, I'd happily and honestly accept the handout I had earned. No, it's because I can't look at myself in the mirror with pleasure whilst implicitly supporting a system that strangles economic pursuits.

I think you somewhat misinterpreted my point. Switching to your context, I don't think there's a moral principle that prohibits you from accepting unemployment benefits. Does that mean you are obligated to do so? Of course not.

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The principle here is to be honest. If you sincerely plan on returning, then it is your right to exercise options in your contract. If you plan on quitting after your maternity leave, it is unethical to lead your employer on until your maternity leave ends. They will eventually need to hire someone if you do quit, so leading your employer to believe you will return when in fact you will not for the duration of your leave is unethical.

Consider being honest with your employer that you may not return after your leave. If you do not expect to be fired after revealing this, it would be very beneficial to have a mutual understanding to ensure positive relations in the future with this employer.

Finally, if the contract doesn't say you can't do it, then you can do it. If it doesn't say you have to do it, then you don't have to do it. Have a lawyer read the contract.

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What if there was a tax rule saying that you could take a deductions tax because of some reason that you do not share with every other tax-payer: e.g. because you had a child, or because you were a certain age, or because you had adopted in that year, or because you spent a certain amount on home-mortgage interest. Would you equally not stomach that type of rule, and insist on not claiming that deduction? If you would take such deductions, what if there was a deduction for someone who has been unemployed?

That is a tough spot I've painted myself into, logically, yup you are right. Hmmm, let's see if I can distinguish the two.

I see two major differences:

One, maybe the biggest, is the image that I present to others, as I said, I would find it inconsistent with my principles to accept assistance I had not earned, or with even a whiff/taint of the unearned -- I want to ensure that every value I own is truly mine. Whereas, with tax deductions, it is more about PREVENTING my values from being taken, rather than attempting to use the broken system to recover part of the value stolen at gunpoint, but at the expense of being given what I consider a scarlet letter. So it's not that the "assistance" is specific to a given group, but, what group? Everyone takes tax deductions, but only those incapable or unwilling to earn a living accept handouts (or suck blood).

Two, with personal income taxes, at least the bureaucracy is contained a bit by being evenly distributed and granular. However, unemployment laws are a labyrinth for small businesses, and anyone who has run a small business in NYC will attest to the byzantine rules which appear designed to trap the unwary/new business owner, and lead to so much headaches that one MUST hire outside professionals even for a small business! So, as I see it, tax deductions don't have the same level of impact on the small business owner/entrepreneur as do entitlements (esp., earmarked ones with dedicated bureaucracy). Which is to say, tax deductions are not so specifically distortive of economic value and incentive.

- ico

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I think you somewhat misinterpreted my point. Switching to your context, I don't think there's a moral principle that prohibits you from accepting unemployment benefits. Does that mean you are obligated to do so? Of course not.

Exactly. It is a matter of one's personal value system, and accounting within it. But, I suspect that others may conclude as I do, that the pittance obtainable by accepting unemployment benefits is not worth the reputation risk. And rather than telling stories of the days when I took unemployment benefits I didn't need, instead I'll be able to talk about how I DIDN'T take them on good principle.

- ico

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