Most US women would lose their savings after 8 weeks of unpaid maternity leave: survey

Story at a glance

  • The survey found individuals were willing to trade-off certain employer benefits for paid maternity leave. 

  • Over half of participants reported they would take out a personal loan to cover expenses, while others said they would dip into retirement savings.

  • The vast majority of respondents support a federal government intervention that would offer paid maternity leave. 

The United States is one of the only developed countries in the world that does not guarantee paid maternity leave for its mothers. Often, policies differ based on state laws or employer-based insurance coverage. 

Now, a new survey conducted among 1,000 employed women between the ages 18 and 44 found nearly 75 percent would deplete their cash savings after eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave, while more than half would consider taking out a personal loan to cover maternity leave expenses.  

The survey was carried out by Breeze, a company that buys and sells personalized disability insurance. It also revealed nearly half of women would consider drawing from their retirement account in this scenario. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said they would take a five percent pay cut for their employer to offer paid maternity leave. 

According to authors, one potential solution could be short-term disability insurance for pregnancy, although many surveyed did not know about this option. 

The survey was conducted online between July 6-7, 2022. 

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When asked about the importance of employers offering paid maternity leave, survey respondents on average ranked the benefit as highly important. In an effort to better understand what employees would give up to have access to employer-sponsored maternity leave, 20 percent said they would be willing to undergo a 10 percent pay cut. Thirty percent would give up vision insurance for this benefit while nearly 40 percent would work an extra ten hours per week, underscoring the priority women place on paid maternity leave.

However, authors stressed the data collected “is not meant to suggest employers can cut one benefit in exchange for paid maternity leave. 

“We’re not suggesting companies cut health insurance or cut pay, but rather trying to highlight the value of offering paid maternity leave by weighing it against other standard, relatable benefits,” the survey’s authors wrote. 

Nearly all women surveyed (89 percent) also said they felt the federal government should offer some form of paid maternity leave program. 

Recent data highlighted the financial toll of giving birth in the United States. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, when pregnant, women incur about $19,000 more costs related to pregnancy compared with their non-pregnant counterparts, while on-average, around $16,000 is covered by insurance. That leaves new mothers with average out-of-pocket costs of around $2,800.