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Golf star Stacy Lewis: Maternity leave needs to be written in contracts

Grete Suarez

The United States is the only developed nation in the world without a mandatory paid parental leave policy, which leaves states and companies to decide whether to offer pay voluntarily.

The Family and Medical Leave Act mandates 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children, if they work for a company with 50 or more employees. However, the lack of a mandate for compensation can create problems for new parents.

This week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) slammed the lack of policy at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, comparing choices on parental leave to how “the market treats people worse than dogs.”

And twelve-time Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour winner Stacy Lewis told Yahoo Finance that the status quo puts her in the New York congresswoman’s camp.

“I’m going to have to agree a little bit,” the golf champion told YFi PM.

“It’s such a hard thing, you don’t get that time back -- they are only little for so long and they need so much at that age,” she said.

That can be a problem in sports, where athletes “don’t get paid unless they played.” Lewis played at the 2018 LPGA tournament up until she was 6 months pregnant.

At that point, Lewis decided it was time to push for maternity leave — and her sponsor’s reply surprised her.

“KPMG went outside the contract — there was nothing written into my contract that said we’re going to pay you if you have a baby,” she explained. “They decided, ‘we want to treat you like a member of our firm.’”

KILDEER, IL - JULY 01: Stacy Lewis hits a pitch shot on the second hole during the final round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on July 1, 2018 in Kildeer, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images for KPMG)

Management consultancy firm KPMG is the first sponsor to pay an athlete for the remainder of her contract, where she went on to miss eight weeks of the season. Yet other women aren’t as lucky.

“I tried to play a golf tournament at 3 months and I was exhausted, and that was out my choice,” said Lewis. “A lot of women don’t have that choice, so let’s give them that flexibility— if they want to come back to work, let them.”

Lewis believes maternity leave should be two months or more, and women need to be vocal about pushing for that to be included in contracts. 

“That's what female athletes need — to be proactive about it to protect themselves… otherwise you’re only going to get paid if you’re running or playing,” she added.

Grete Suarez is producer at Yahoo Finance for YFi PM and The Ticker. Follow her on Twitter: @GreteSuarez

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