Survey Finds That 74% of Working Moms Would Have No Cash Left After 8 Weeks of Unpaid Maternity Leave

Recovering from delivery, bonding with your baby, and caring for a newborn drain women’s savings accounts.

By: Amanda Mushro

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Photo by: Maskot

Maskot

In the United States, only 19 percent of the workforce is offered paid maternity leave. So, when a parent takes leave to care for their newborn and recover from labor and delivery, many are tapping into their savings to pay the bills. This means millions of women are faced with the difficult decision to cut their maternity leave short in order to return to work. While saving money before the baby arrives to cover the costs of not working is an option for some mothers, for many, it’s not feasible.

According to a new survey, 1,001 employed women between the ages 18-44 were surveyed about finances related to maternity leave. What they found was 74% of the women said they wouldn’t have any cash savings left after eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Also, 54% of the women said they would consider taking out a personal loan to cover the costs while on maternity leave, and another 49% said they would dip into their retirement account to make ends meet. The survey also found that nearly half of the women, 47%, say they would be willing to take a 5% pay cut if their employer offered eight weeks of paid maternity leave.

"It’s clear most working women are bearish when it comes to the financial situation they’d expect after eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave," the survey’s authors wrote. "The data also highlights how valuable a paid maternity leave benefit would be for so many women who otherwise have to deplete savings or take on debt."

There are other factors new moms have to take into consideration — complications from delivery, postpartum depression, lack of childcare, and also the fact that you have a newborn who doesn’t sleep. For many mothers, the reality is that 6, 8, or 10 weeks of unpaid maternity leave is not an option.

While it’s been a hot button issue for years, unfortunately the United States is the only wealthy country in the world without any guaranteed paid parental leave at the national level. Because of this, one in four women will return to work just two weeks after having a baby.

According to American Pregnancy, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that requires most companies to allow their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave time. "The FMLA applies to both men and women and is also available for those that adopt a child. If the parents work for the same company, the 12 weeks is then divided between the two of them and is an accumulation of both of their time (i.e., each could take 6 weeks off, or one could take 4 weeks while the other takes 8 weeks)."

There are exceptions to the FMLA that allows a company to not offer unpaid leave:

  • Less than 50 employees
  • The time of employment, less than 12 months
  • Level of wages

Clearly this study confirms what parents already know: the cost of unpaid parental leave is devastating to families in this country.

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