My original thoughts that men and women are entitled to time off, stemmed from a social democratic system of government that paid for maternity/paternity leave, not the private employer. However, in a capitalist society where the cost will fall on the private company, from a business perspective, the sense of automatic entitlement make no sense. If I'm running a business and have a budget to work with, why should I have to pay for maternity leave, when getting pregnant is one's personal choice, at my expense? I hate to say this, but this may even make me want to discriminate against hiring women, because as a manager I'd want to run my business with minimum cost and interruptions. Although I still don't have my mind made up about how to go about doing this, I think maybe people who choose to have children should plan so ahead of time and save their sick and vacation time to use. If a company chooses to give its employees extra days/weeks for maternity/paternity leave (which if I was in a position to decide and could afford, I would, after a year of employment), then fine, but it's not an entitlement. Also, what about childless people? They should get less days off because of their lifestyle/personal choices, which may even be more responsible?
EDIT: ......., Running a business is not about "being nice." Emotions have little place in the business world. When I ask for a raise, I don't expect it out of my manager's "niceness" or him feeling sorry for me. I'm being paid for the value I bring to the company and the company is making money for its value to the customer. And women dont' "have to" go through pregnancy. It's a personal choice to get pregnant. When some of us make the decision of taking a job and moving up, we understand the sacrifices we need to make to be a part of the professional world. Sometimes we have to pick between the two, cuz trust me, I would like to have five kids too.
EDIT: Granting maternity leave can be one incentive for employees, just like other benefits...but if a company can't afford or chooses not to pay for maternity leave, then it's simply a business decision. If they are the ones with the power, it means you're easily replaceable by someone who can do the job with less cost. If you have an edge and add a lot of value to the company, you're the one with the power so they will accommodate to keep you. That has been my experience at least. Walking into a company and expecting free days off automatically for choosing to get pregnant, don't make sense. I believe my concern is how the business is run, the budget and operations, yours are mostly "morals." If paying maternity leave is a matter of incentives, then the lack of it should be enough for the employee to switch jobs and go elsewhere where the incentives are greater. If the company loses its valuable employees for the lack of incentives, then it will change its policies. Problem solved. Let supply and demand rule. Leave emotions out of it.
EDIT: Unavailable: With all due respect :), I have never had a child and I'm far from a dead species. Having a child is not a necessity for survival, but a personal choice. And as far as it being a medical procedure, that's what sick days are for.
EDIT: Oracle: The rule of supply and demand rules in this case too. If I'm a valuable employee (rare/low supply) and the company always wants valuable employees ( high demand) as the employee, I have more pull and power, and my company will bend itself to keep me happy. That would be your supply and demand rule. An employee has the freedom to either not take a job with a company that doesn't give acceptable benefits or switch jobs when she/he's unsatisfied. And a company has the right to structure its business to give whatever benefits it desires, within the law. Charity is not to be confused with running a business. If it was up to me I would want an employee to get 3 months off to have a baby after six months of employment, but I can't do it at the expense of interrupting my ops, going over my budget and risking the company's survival and my own. And when you force companies to do this, they will subtly discriminate against women. And I wouldn't know about the "rich and lucky"...I started from nothing, have earned everything I have and continue to do so. This is exactly why I understand the importance of earning and hard work, and feeling little sympathy for the automatic entitlement mentality.
If it sounds tough, change the government type and get on the government, but don't kill the messenger or businesses that are trying to survive.
EDIT: Kubebe: A company is only responsible for its business. The well-being of society, implementing and supporting values are not your company's job. It's not their job to support you in expanding your family or taking the responsibility of private individual choices. If you want to have children and the company has a policy of not giving paid time off, plan on how to go about supporting yourself financially and timewise, as every responsibile parent should. And I don't mean "you" as in you, but as in general people :)