Being a mother changes your life, overnight you take responsibility for the well-being of a creature that depends on you to survive and grow well. If this responsibility is shared with the parent, with other family members and with the state, the task is simplified. I understand that a single mother feels that her child should be entitled to double parental leave because she does not have a partner. Several women have taken this issue to the courts, and we have court rulings granting some single mothers extended leave of 26 to 32 weeks, depending on the interpretation of differences between single parent and double parent families. There are basically two arguments. If permission is issued not only for the recovery of the mother after childbirth, but mainly for the care of the child, then there should not be discrimination against minors by family type. The proposals argue that the highest good of the minor is to govern. In addition, the need to avoid indirect discrimination based on sex is argued, since women make up more than 80% of single-parent families. On the other hand, a recent decision from Navarre rejected that the plaintiff’s single mother could add the time of two permits for one birth because it is an individual labor law and an appeal to the legislature to decide on this issue. Indeed, at the request of the PP, Congress should soon process a bill to equalize permits for single-parent families and families with two parents.
The verdicts and Congress have not accounted for the actual use of the permit by cousins because there has been no evaluation of the 2019 reform and little to no data. According to the information processed by the Transparency Portal, in 2021, about 76% of minors were in the care of their parents at the same time and for only 16 weeks. Contrary to court arguments, care time does not usually double in two-parent families, and this is due to two main reasons. First, because the law obliges the father to take the first six compulsory weeks at the same time as the mother, and only later can he divide his vacation into two parts in order to use the remaining 10 (voluntary) weeks when the mother returns to work. In this case, the child can be cared for for 26 weeks using two permits in succession, but the two permits are never duplicated, as the A Coruña regulation suggests. The second reason for leaving for only 16 weeks in two-parent families is the legal, administrative, and business barriers to using the permit for multiple periods, as denounced by the Equal Permissions Platform (PPiiNA). Only 24% of parents split permission, mostly in two parts, and in the PSOE and UP government agreement, clause 7.1 provides for the removal of these barriers to real joint responsibility.
Let’s get back to broken families. In 2020, INE registered 37,928 births to single mothers, representing 11% of all births. How can we adequately protect these creatures? In my opinion, the greater good of the minor should be ensured in two ways: by offering material well-being and by good care. The Spanish welfare state does not guarantee the right of access to housing for families, there is no universal allowance for minors, and the minimum living income does not apply to all families that need it. Therefore, having a job with sufficient income is the first condition for a single mother to ensure the well-being of her baby. Compared to other countries, a birth permit in Spain is very generous in terms of remuneration and legally guarantees a return to work, but is short-lived, given the desire of many mothers to breastfeed a child for up to six months. There are working mothers who manage to live to six months because they also use accrued parental leave (2 to 4 weeks), annual leave (4 weeks) or short unpaid leave. It all depends on the type of job they have and whether she is employed or self-employed. A few of the mothers asking for longer leave are government employees, so they don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, clients, or previous working conditions, but they are in the minority.
Since 1991, single mothers with children under 18 have mostly been women with compulsory education or below (Garriga and Cortina 2017; Pérez Corral and Moreno Minges 2022), so their chances of getting a good job were low. Of single mothers who gave birth in 2020, 33% had a compulsory education or less, and 22% had completed high school or basic vocational training (MNP, INE 2022). Women with low educational resources suffer from higher unemployment rates, temporary contracts, part-time contracts and low wages. It is important for most single mothers to keep a job, unless they receive financial assistance from their family, which is also unlikely. In fact, the risk of falling below the poverty line for single mothers is very high, with 14% suffering from severe material deprivation in 2020 and 40% from moderate or severe social exclusion in 2021, with only 30% being fully integrated (FOESSA Report for 2022). In short, the greater good of a child in a single-parent family is protected by the provision of adequate employment for his mother. If parental leave for single mothers were to be doubled, they would be perceived as less affordable than mothers in two-parent families and face comparable employment grievances. In addition, there will be a situation of labor discrimination against all women compared to men, just as before equating parental leave with maternity leave, when mothers were absent from work much more weeks than fathers. Any woman of childbearing age will again face statistical discrimination in access to employment and promotions because the employer will expect her to become a single mother and be less available than men.
Thus, doubling the leave for single mothers seems like a bad idea to me because of the negative impact on their employment opportunities, the employment of all women, and the economic well-being of the vast majority of sentient beings. What can be done to ensure good care for children in broken families? The Federation of Associations of Single Mothers (FAMS) states in its 2021 Thematic Analysis “Alternatives to Reconciliation and Shared Responsibility” a number of urgent actions that highlight the importance of employment and care services: 1. public care services with priority access for single-parent families, 2 100% paid leave to allow for reduced working hours without loss of wages, 3. home help services, 4. flexible working hours and other practical measures to support single mothers. The merit of these requirements is the combination of both aspects of child welfare, economic provision and care without labor penalties for single mothers. In conclusion, it should be noted that doubling the length of maternity and parental leave for single mothers is neither necessary nor convenient, as there are other public and business policy alternatives that may allow them to adequately care for their children without endangering their work and without creating discrimination. y statistics for all women.
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