Don’t get me wrong, living across the pond has its advantages. But is also comes with its disadvantages. It puts me into a constant love-hate relationship with the UK. A few things I really love about the UK are worker’s benefits and free healthcare. Last week, I read two articles about both these hot topics in the US and they got me a little fired up. (Warning: I’m about to get on my soapbox and I’m cramming a lot into one little post, but I hope you’ll stay with me.)
This first article was by Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor to President Obama, about mandatory paid sick days. It’s seriously cruel that people in the US cannot get paid sick days to attend to their health or take care of a sick family member. The fact that only three states offer paid sick leave is absurd. People should not have to worry about their job security because they take a few days off work to nurse the flu.
This whole attitude has a knock-on effect regarding the US and employee benefits. The US is the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave. In the 21st century, how is this even possible?! Women should not have to choose between their career and starting a family, nor should they lose their job because they decide to spend more than a few weeks with the baby right after it’s born.
This also leads me to vacation days. I really cannot believe that the standard vacation day allotment in the US is only 10 days. I mean if you take a few days a Christmas plus a few days at Thanksgiving, you’re lucky if you have five days for the other 10 months of the year. That doesn’t even equate to one day per month. In the UK, the minimum vacation day allotment for full-time employees is 20 days. Additionally, employees are entitled to five sick days per year. So thankfully, if you get the flu (or worse) you’re not going to lose your job.
The second article I read was from The Guardian about British expats navigating the US insurance chain. Now, I must say I am in the dark when it comes to choosing or buying insurance in the US. I thankfully have never had to do it. Thanks to Obama, I was re-instated on my parents’ health insurance not long after I graduated from college and then moved to the UK before I turned 26. I didn’t realize how expensive insurance actually is…so thank you Mom and Dad! I learned the hard way (during a few months when I wasn’t covered on my parents’ insurance) how much one quick trip to the gyno can set you back.
Compared to every other developed country, Americans spend exorbitant amounts on healthcare. I hate to pull the Walter White reference, but the man resorted to cooking meth in order to cover his medical bills just because he got freaking cancer. Although that is a bit extreme (and not to mention fictional) it does prove a point. Americans shouldn’t have to go into debt to cover medical bills. I don’t understand why Americans are so against a public healthcare system. It’s not perfect, but I’m a huge advocate of the National Health System in the UK. I know I pay for it via taxes, but every time I go to the doctor it costs me absolutely nothing!
For being such a world power, and progressive country, in some ways I can’t believe how behind the US is compared to other countries, particularly in Europe, when it comes to holiday entitlement, paid leave and healthcare. You don’t even want to know what the Scandinavian holiday and maternity (and even paternity) benefits are. It’s things like this that make me a bit remiss about my motherland. Americans tend to be too concentrated on looking out for number one rather than the greater good, even if it means a healthier society with affordable… or dare I say free… healthcare and paid sick days. Easier said than done, but really America, c’mon get your shit together.
I will get off my soap box now, but I leave you with one image that illustrates what the cost of healthcare in America can do to a person…