Fearful Women Shun Maternity Leave, Study Reveals

Pregnant woman at keyboard America is the only modern, industrialized country that does not offer paid maternity leave to new mothers. And in the U.S., 51 percent of new mothers lack paid leave from their employers. Now, a new study finds that many of those women who do have maternity leave from employers aren't using it in full.

The study released Thursday by CareerBuilder found that nearly 1 in 3 (30 percent) of women who have had a child in the past three years have cut short their maternity leaves, not taking as much as their employers' policies would allow. Of women who have had children in the past three years, less than half -- 44 percent -- took eight weeks or more of maternity leave. The rest took less, often far less.

According to the survey, 12 percent of women went back to work after taking a leave of just two weeks or less. CareerBuilder, an AOL Jobs partner, speculated that "competitive work environments" and "demanding positions" are discouraging women from taking full advantage of maternity leave.

Other studies have shown similar findings. After California passed a state law requiring paid maternity leave to workers, a 2011 study found that just one third of female workers were taking full advantage of their leave. The reason: They feared doing so would make their employers "unhappy" and possibly result in them getting fired, reported the left-leaning Center for American Progress. (New Jersey is the only other state with such a law, according to NBC News.)

Unfortunately, such fears can be warranted, according to Ariane Hegeswich, the study director for the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. "There's still a perception that working mothers are not fully committed" if they take long maternity leave, she says. "You're supposed to go to the hospital, have your child and then return to work." Because if they don't, Hegeswich added, the women risk being taken less seriously at work, or maybe even eventually getting fired.

More: What Working Moms Really Want

Last year, a federal judge ordered a Milwaukee medical staffing company to pay $148,000 to Roxy Leger, a former bookkeeper for the firm, after the company fired her while she was on maternity leave. The judge found that Charles Sisson, the owner of the company, HCS Medical Staffing, had referred to her pregnancy as a joke, insisted that the maternity leave should only last a few days, and then fired her while she was still in the hospital recuperating from a Caesarean birth.

As egregious and awful as that case sounds, statistics suggest that pregnancy discrimination remains a pervasive problem. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 5,800 pregnancy discrimination complaints in 2011, up from 4,000 in 1997.

Meanwhile, the prospects for guaranteed paid maternity leave is diminishing in the United States. The Families and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, guarantees most workers the right to take three months unpaid leave. The U.S. is joined by just three other countries (Swaziland, Liberia and Papua New Guinea) on the list of countries that do not guarantee paid maternity leave. And the number of American employers offering fully paid leave is dropping, according to the Families and Work Institute. In 2005, of the employers who provided paid leave, 17 percent offered full pay. In 2011, that figure dropped to 9 percent.

In spite of the obstacles, and the persistence of the gender wage gap, women are still finding a way to create one form of gender equality in the workplace. The CareerBuilder study found that nearly as many women as men now consider themselves their family's "sole breadwinner." The difference is just 5 percentage points -- with 39 percent of dads filling that role, compared to 34 percent of the moms.




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23 Comments

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valgaavmiko

For those that think maternity leave should be only a couple weeks or less, I'd like to see how you fare after pushing a little human out of you or getting it cut out of you.

May 13 2013 at 11:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bruce

I've heard from those that have experienced it that though there is "written maternity" leave in a contract, many times the company "frowns" on it,and you end up loosing promotions and may be more inclined to be let go

May 13 2013 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian Joslyn

Hey, AOL... 1 in 3 is 33.3% ... not 30%.

May 10 2013 at 11:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jesse McGowen

American is the lowest paid, most hours worked country in the developed world. The only people that work harder for less pay are those in sweat shops that make all our imported goods. The whole system has become a greed machine and with companies posting record profits even in a "economic down turn" there's more then enough data to make you think maybe we are doing it wrong.

May 10 2013 at 7:22 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jesse McGowen's comment
klasakt

What if you don't want to be one of the horde? The cost of living in Europe is higher than here. I would rather have the chance to improve my life 'ranking" as opposed to being pidgeon holed all my life. Why should the government be able to tell me how much money I can make? If you don't like the conditions of your job .. not you personally ... then you should leave and find another. They also have a very high tax system to cover all the "free" things their government gives them. When your tax rate is 25% then that means that for every dollar, 25 cents goes to the government and 75 cents goes to you. And there are a lot of European countries that have higher then 25% taxation.

April 2, 2013

The recession in Europe grinds on.

Official European Union figures published Tuesday showed unemployment in the eurozone hit a record high of 12.0% in February, and young people are paying a particularly heavy price.

The reported January rate of 11.9% was also revised up to 12.0%, meaning the continent has spent consecutive months at the new record level.

Some 19 million people are out of work in the eurozone, 3.6 million of them under the age of 25, meaning nearly one in every four young people are without a job.

Compared with the same month a year earlier, the jobless total in the eurozone has increased by 1.8 million, with the depressed economies of southern Europe suffering the most.

There is little hope that Europe will return to growth this quarter, especially in the wake of a messy and tumultuous bailout for the tiny nation of Cyprus.

Related story: Tough times for Cyprus after EU bailout

The European Central Bank will meet later this week to discuss monetary policy for the first time since the country's bank bailout deal was done.

The ECB remains under pressure to cut interest rates. There has been more gloomy economic news since it last met, including Italy downgrading its forecast for this year and weak sentiment survey from the European Commission. To top of page

May 10 2013 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
zx2x9

Oh will I be able to choose to go to Bora Bora for 8 weeks? I I am not female but guess what I and other have to do her work too. Then she complains that she is not promoted when the rest get 60+ hour work weeks and she just has to be with her child.

May 10 2013 at 7:04 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to zx2x9's comment
riognach

"I am not a female" says it all. Jealous much? You cannot ovulate, gestate or lactate. Better thank you mom that she was able to or you wouldn't be here. I'm guessing she took some time off if she was a working-outside-the-home mom to wipe your cute little tushie... and you would deny that to other women. I'm also guessing you're not married or a parent yet. Just wait...

May 13 2013 at 4:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
hardingoffice

wow and all those European countries that have long paid maternity leave are what going bankrupt? Americans should check out Iceland and Norway and Switzerland. They have paid parental leave! as in you raise your child and get a pay check to help support it and gov supported day care and great schools and public transportation. I guess the boss who rants about hiring people to do a job should try to do it himself

May 10 2013 at 6:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dfoster

I hire people because I need a job done. I appreciate their work and find that they are more productive when treated well, and I enjoy the supportive and friendly environment good treatment creates. Regardless, they were not hired to promote their social welfare and lifestyle well-being - if they can't do the work I pay them for, then why would I have hired them in the first place? Training a new employee can take 3-6 months for full productivity, so their absence is costly for a small business. If the benefits become too burdensome, then a job applicant potentially at risk for extended time loss becomes less likely to be hired in the first place.

May 10 2013 at 3:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
cowboys

I took only 2 weeks for precisely this reason....

May 10 2013 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sstuczynsk

IT IS NICE THAT COMMENTS MADE LOOK AT IT FROM THE WOMAN'S POINT OF VIEW AND OTHER NON PREGNANT EMPLOYEES POINT OF VIEW. HOW ABOUT THE EMPLOYER? iF W WOMAN TAKES A COUPLE OF WEEKS OFF, MOST COMPNIES CAN WORK AROUND THAT. BUT TO HAVE AN EMPLOYEE TAKE 3 MONTHS OFF, EVEN WITHOUT PAY, CREATES A HARDSHIP FOR THE EMPLOYER. wHO WILL DO THE WORK OF THAT EMPLOYEE? DOES THE EMPLOYER COVER THIS TIME OFF BY PAYING OTHER EMPLOYEES OVERTIME? tHAT IS AN EXTRA COST TO THE EMPLOYER. dO YOU HIRE A TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE? THAT COULD COST YOU EXTRA PREMIUMS FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. iT ALL AMOUNTS TO AN EXTRA COST TO AN EMPLOYER. oH, YOU WILL SAY HAT THE EMPLOYER CAN AFFORD THAT. IF YOU DO, YOU HAVE NEVER OWNED OR MANAGED A COMPANY. mARGINS FOR SMALL EMPLOYERS ARE VERY SMALL. EXTRA EMPLOYEE COSTS COULD MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PROFIT OR LOSS./

May 10 2013 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sstuczynsk's comment
samginest

I worked for a retail chain that enacted a policy of 'interim promotion'. A pregnant area manager was encouraged to take maternity leave at the six month mark, and wasn't required to return until her newborn was three months old. In the meantime, a replacement was selected from a pool of her subordinates who were tested and evaluated by the store manager.

May 10 2013 at 5:51 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
AllThatGlitters

The federal government doesn't even offer paid maternity leave.

May 10 2013 at 11:22 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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