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Research Summary. People often talk about how the U.S. is behind other countries on paid maternity leave, but is this really the case? For the most part, yes. A majority of American workers still don’t have access to paid maternity leave. According to our extensive research:
Only 16% of those working in private industries have access to paid maternity leave.
The average amount of paid maternity leave given by companies is 8 weeks, but this isn’t mandated by law. Federal law only requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
40% of employers offer paid maternity leave in some form.
70% of women take some form of maternity leave that lasts an average of 10 weeks, paid or unpaid.
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General Paid Maternity Leave Statistics
When it comes to paid maternity leave, the U.S. falls short compared to many other countries. While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 did provide mandatory unpaid maternity leave, many still believe this isn’t nearly enough. Here are the facts:
The FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, but only for those who are eligible.
And these eligibilities include: working at the company for a minimum of 12 months, working at least 1,250 hours over that period, and working at a location where 50 or more employees operate there, or within 75 miles.
The average paid maternity leave in countries that are a part of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is 18 weeks.
This includes countries like Mexico, Australia, Canada, and almost all of Europe. The U.S. is the only member of the OECD that doesn’t offer mandatory paid maternity leave.
36 countries in Europe and Asia offer 52+ weeks of paid maternity leave. The U.S. offers 0.
The highest of these countries being Estonia (84 weeks), Bulgaria (70 weeks), Hungary (68 weeks), and Lithuania (62 weeks). During this period, employers in those countries are required to pay employees.
More than 120 countries require paid maternity leave by law.
Of these countries, a majority follow The International Labor Organization (ILO), which expects 12-14 weeks of paid maternity leave. The U.S. is an exception here, as it’s one of only 33 countries that offer less than 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Even worse, the U.S. actually has no mandatory paid maternity leave.
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Maternity Leave Statistics
Given that the U.S. is behind other countries regarding paid maternity leave, does this affect how new mothers use it? Yes, as new mothers in the United States take surprisingly little time off. Here are some insights our research uncovered:
Only 25% of women take nine weeks or longer of maternity leave, paid or unpaid.
Likely due to the lack of paid maternity leave, many American mothers take off far less than 12 weeks of maternity leave. In fact, roughly 50% of women only take between 5-10 weeks off.
1/3 of U.S. women don’t take maternity leave.
Somewhat shockingly, 1/3 of new mothers take little to no time off after giving birth to or adopting their new child and instead opt to return to work as soon as they’re able.
Lower-income women are 58% more likely not to take maternity leave.
Among women who make less than $30,000 per year, 62% do not take maternity leave. However, among women who make at least $75,000 annually, that number is only 26%.
Experts recommend at least 6 months to a year of paid maternity leave.
However, even left-leaning lawmakers in the U.S. are only proposing 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and are currently having little success.
Women and their families lose an estimated $22.5 billion in wages each year due to the lack of mandatory paid maternity leave.
That equates to the average adult losing between $9,578 in wages after taking 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, typically 58% of their quarterly income.
Paid Maternity Leave by Industry Statistics
Though paid maternity leave can be hard to come by in the United States, some industries and fields offer it more than others. According to our research:
The Architecture and Engineering industry has 6 of the top 11 fields that offer paid maternity leave.
And of these fields, the Senior Reliability Engineer field is the most likely to offer maternity leave, with an average of 30% of job listings offering it. Another top field is Lead Engineer, with 25% of listings offering paid maternity leave.
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations are the least likely to offer paid maternity leave.
Of the listed jobs, there are no jobs in this industry that offer paid maternity leave. Most listings for fields in other industries have at least a 1% chance of offering maternity leave, but for cooks and servers, that number is 0.
Paid Maternity Leave by Company Size Statistics
Whether you work for a private company or the government can also impact your chances of receiving paid maternity leave. In general, federal employees have far more access. Here’s what we found:
Freddie Mac is the top company in the U.S. for paid maternity leave, offering a full 12 weeks to employees.
This government-backed loan and mortgage corporation offers new mothers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and provides up to $30,000 to help parents pay for adoption fees. On top of that, Freddie Mac also has a lactation support program for breastfeeding mothers.
Only 15% of companies with 99 or fewer employees offer paid maternity leave.
But many claim this is because they can’t compete with larger corporations. 70% of small businesses support a national paid leave policy.
40% of private companies in the U.S. offer paid maternity leave.
However, this doesn’t mean that everyone has access to benefits. On average, only 20% of employees have access to these programs.
2.1 million federal employees have access to paid maternity leave.
In fact, 1/2 individuals reported feeling lonely at least once per week, and 70% felt left out of their workplace.
Paid Maternity Leave by Region Statistics
Last, but not least, because the states have so much autonomy in the U.S., there can be a huge difference in maternity leave between them. For instance, states like Massachusetts and California offer more paid maternity leave than Florida. Here are the facts:
As of 2020, Massachusetts offers the best paid maternity leave, providing up to 12 weeks of mandatory paid leave.
In 2019, Massachusetts passed the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (MA PFML) which granted up to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for eligible employees. California also has a similar policy.
Only 8 states provide access to paid maternity leave.
Louisiana is one of the worst states for paid maternity leave, with 63% of working people in the state not having access.
Due to the lack of a paid maternity leave policy and at least one major qualification loophole, most people in this state don’t have access to paid maternity leave.
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Paid Maternity Leave FAQ
What is the average maternity leave?
The average unpaid maternity leave in the U.S. is 12 weeks, but many new mothers opt to take less than 9 weeks of leave because few have access to paid leave.
How many U.S. companies offer paid maternity leave?
Roughly 40% of private companies in the U.S. offer paid maternity leave. Of these, there are around 180 major companies with significant paid maternity leave policies. These include companies like Amazon, Google, Freddie Mac, and more.
Is maternity leave paid in the U.S.?
Unfortunately, only 16% of those working in private industries have access to paid maternity leave in the United States. The FMLA only requires companies to offer 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.
While there are 8 states that do have paid maternity leave policies, and many federal employees have access, the U.S. still offers very little compared to other developed countries.
What is the FMLA?
The FMLA or Family and Medical Leave Act was passed in 1993 and provides 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave for eligible employees.
To be eligible, employees must have worked at the company for a minimum of 12 months, worked at least 1,250 hours over that period, and worked at a location where 50 or more employees operate there or within 75 miles.
When it comes to paid maternity leave, the U.S. lags far behind the 36 countries in Europe and Asia that offer 52+ weeks of paid maternity leave. Instead, the FMLA in the U.S. only requires 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave to be offered. The lack of a federal paid maternity leave policy means that only 16% of private employees have access.
However, the lack of an overarching policy also creates large disparities between private and federal employees and employees from different states or companies. For example, states like Massachusetts require at least 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for eligible employees, while loopholes in Louisiana leave 63% of employees without access to maternity leave.
Luckily, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Of the 8 states that now have mandatory paid leave, many of which have passed these policies within the past two years. On top of that, 70% of small businesses support a national paid leave policy, despite only 15% of their employees having access right now.
With the implementation of more paid maternity leave policies, the U.S. could see a shift in the number of people who have access.class="fancy">Sources:
UCSF. “National Paid Maternity Leave Makes Sense for Mothers, Babies and Maybe the Economy.” Accessed on September 14th, 2021.
The Balance Careers. “How Long Is the Average Maternity Leave?” Accessed on September 14th, 2021.
U.S. Department of Labor. “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About the Revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act.” Accessed on September 14th, 2021.
Insider. “Here’s what maternity leave looks like around the world.” Accessed on September 14th, 2021.
PEO Worldwide. “Maternity and Paternity Pay Around the World.” Accessed on September 14th, 2021.
CNN. “Paid leave for parents: What’s the right amount of time?” Accessed on September 14th, 2021.
Center for American Progress. “The Rising Cost of Inaction on Work-Family Policies.” Accessed on September 14th, 2021.
Insider. “10 of the best companies for new parents, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Freddie Mac.” Accessed on September 15th, 2021.
HBR. “How Small Companies Can Offer Great Paid-Leave Programs.” Accessed on September 15th, 2021.
Talentculture. “60 Percent of U.S. Companies Still Don’t Offer Paid Paternity Leave.” Accessed on September 15th, 2021.
World Population Review. “Paid Maternity Leave By State 2021.” Accessed on September 15th, 2021.
CNBC. “These are the best and worst states for working moms in 2021, according to new report.” Accessed on September 15th, 2021.
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