Study: Women Who Took Paid Maternity Leave Earn Less

by Evil HR Lady on November 15, 2019

The United States lags behind European countries when it comes to maternity leave. Federal law only requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave if the mother qualifies. To qualify under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you must:

  • Work for a company that has 50 or more employees in a 75 miles radius
  • Have worked for a minimum of 1250 hours in the past 12 months
  • Worked for at least 12 months for this company (although consecutive work isn’t required)

If you meet all these criteria, then you qualify. But, the company isn’t required to pay you for any of that time off, and neither does the government–but in 2004 California changed that and they looked at the impact of the payment.

California followed 153,000 women who gave birth right before and right after they implemented the paid maternity leave. Women who got paid leave earned an average of $24,000 less over ten years than the women who had unpaid leave.

To keep reading, click here: Study: Women Who Took Paid Maternity Leave Earn Less

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy November 15, 2019 at 5:03 pm

This leaves me wondering how long the leaves were by comparison. Did the women with unpaid leaves race back to work because they needed the money and pick up their old jobs right where they left off, while paid mothers could stay out longer? I could imagine a paid mother losing her old job to a new employee brought in to cover for the extended absence. If a returning paid mother was restarted in a position new to her or placed in an unnecessary position (as companies do with spare employees until an appropriate assignment is available), her next raise could be quite delayed.

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MariaRose November 15, 2019 at 9:15 pm

This sounds like a typical liberal version of what actually occurred and I am quite sure this survey was based on women who took these leaves of absence (paid or not) from at least a decade or more prior to 2019. We do have more protections in place, under FLMA than previous times. To get those twelve weeks of paid leave before it was a combination of sick days, personal days and vacation, plus depending on your state, you could file for a paid disability leave which could possibly extend time off to a year of paid time off work, while guaranteeing your job position was held open for your return. Believe me, plenty of fraudulent claims were filed to get this time off and if they returned to work, they expected a flexible schedule to accommodate their parental needs.
I totally agree with the need to take time off after going through birth, but there’s enough time in the 12 weeks for both the body and the mind to recover for someone who both needs the job and the career to progress. Most of the people who take unpaid leave, ease themselves back by doing some form of work from home or part-time hours and finding adjustable reliable childcare. In the USA, this is problematic, especially women who are not top-income earners, because the burden falls on them to find and get good childcare without paying most of their income for it. Men don’t even think about this cost, mostly because they are back at work the next day. while reaping the tributes of fatherhood.
This survey leaves out a lot of information to present a biased perception. Women can take time off to have children because the process of giving birth is physically damaging temporarily to the body, but childcare is a longer problem that affects women more careerwise.

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Anonymous November 18, 2019 at 7:47 pm

“This sounds like a typical liberal version of what actually occurred…This survey leaves out a lot of information to present a biased perception. …”

I’m curious as to whether you followed the link to the NYT article? I’m guessing not, since they do talk about time frame involved and the cohort studied (I’m also not sure how a study suggesting that paid leave might HURT women is “typical liberal” anything).

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BethRA November 18, 2019 at 9:09 pm

Sorry, that was me, not sure why it came out as “anonymous”

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BethRA November 18, 2019 at 7:57 pm

Did anyone find an accessible copy of the study itself? Because it’s not clear at all to me whether the differences are between women who took paid leave vs. took unpaid leave, or between women who took leave (paid or unpaid) vs those who didn’t?

I found this very…convoluted explanation in the Washington Post:

The researchers compared the careers of women who were able and unconstrained from taking California’s six weeks of paid leave to women who were eligible but constrained from taking it because they gave birth in the first quarter of 2004.

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