The United States is the only industrialized western nation that does not have a policy of paid infant care leave for working parents during the first few months of their baby's life.

"Seventy-five countries, including many developing countries and every industrialized country except the United States, provide some period of job-protected 'maternity' leave with some amount of wage replacement," notes the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues. "Most countries provide a benefit equal to 100 percent of wages.

"Sweden has the most liberal policy, allowing 12 months leave 90 percent wage replacement for nine months , with fathers enjoying an equal entitlement. Many other countries are moving toward providing paternity benefits."

In April, Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) introduced the "Parental and Disability Leave Act of 1985," which would require employers to provide a minimum of 18 weeks leave for any employe who chooses to stay home with a newborn, newly adopted or seriously ill child with reinstatement to the same or similar job upon return.

The employe would be permitted to return to work on a reduced schedule as long as the total length of parental leave did not exceed 39 consecutive weeks. The employer would be required to continue health insurance coverage for the employe with the same employe/employer payment plan.

Leglislative hearings are expected to be held in February.