POPULATION CHARACTERISTICS

MATERNITY LEAVE

The time a mother takes off from work, paid or unpaid, due to pregnancy and childbirth is known as maternity leave. Since 1997, of mothers who were employed at the time of their last pregnancy, 70.2 percent took maternity leave after birth. Women between the ages of 30 and 34 were most likely to have taken maternity leave for their last pregnancy (78.9 percent), while women between the ages of 18 and 25 were least likely (55.8 percent). This rate also varied across race and ethnicity groups, with Hispanic women being the least likely to have taken maternity leave (60.1 percent). A majority of women who reported taking maternity leave for their last pregnancy had household incomes at 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or greater.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees women who are on maternity leave that their job will be protected for up to 12 weeks in any 12-month period. Among women who took maternity leave during their last pregnancy, 80.7 percent reported taking 12 weeks or less. Because paid maternity leave is not readily available from most employers, women usually use a combination of short-term disability, sick leave, vacation, and personal days in order to have some portion of their maternity leave paid. However, among women who reported taking maternity leave for their last pregnancy, 29.7 percent did not have any portion of their maternity leave paid.

Graph: Women Who Took Maternity Leave for Their Last Pregnancy by Poverty Level[d]

Graph: Women Who Took Maternity Leave for Their Last Pregnancy by Race/Ethnicity[d]