As Abortion Bans Rise, Paid Maternity Leave Drops

Employers are cutting the number of weeks of paid family leave at the worst possible time.

As Abortion Bans Rise, Paid Maternity Leave Drops
Photo:damircudic (Getty Images)

Companies are slashing the amount of paid maternity leave they offer, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the timing is frankly horrific, as forced birth laws spread across the country.

The Society for Human Resource Management recently surveyed 3,000 employers and found that the percentage of companies offering paid maternity leave beyond what was required by state law—which is literally nothing in most states—fell from 53 percent in 2020 to a pathetic 35 percent this year. Meanwhile, employers offering paid paternity leave fell from 44 percent to 27 percent.

Since there is no federal law requiring paid family leave (thanks, Joe Manchin!), what people get is up to the laws of the state where they live, or their employer (if they work full-time and qualify for benefits). Otherwise, any leave new parents take is unpaid. From the WSJ, emphasis mine:

Now, some employers are shrinking the amount of paid leave they offer new parents to the legally required minimums, which can range from nothing to eight or 12 weeks, depending on the region. Eleven states, including California, Massachusetts and New York, have laws that require most employers to offer some paid leave to new parents; 39 states don’t. Under U.S. federal law, qualifying workers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child.

In one stark example, the WSJ reported that Hulu recently slashed its fully paid parental leave from 20 weeks down to just eight. (Depending on where Hulu employees live, they might qualify for additional state benefits.) As one Texas Hulu employee considering starting a family told the paper: “If my job is cutting back on my parental leave, how am I going to afford childcare if I don’t get paid more?”

Childcare is one of the greatest costs facing families, so paid leave helps reduce that financial burden in addition to offering the obvious benefit of giving time off for the birthing parent to heal, rest, and bond with their baby. And it shouldn’t surprise you that the 11 states with paid family leave are not the states that have banned abortion or are likely to do so.

The survey cited by the WSJ doesn’t account for the millions of Americans who don’t get benefits like paid family leave, or even paid time off to go to doctor’s appointments—like, say, prenatal visits.

The story suggests that companies may be returning to their less generous pre-pandemic benefits, are “confronting” inflation, or are preparing for a possible recession, all of which may be true. However, it’s extremely glaring that the piece doesn’t once mention the fall of Roe v. Wade and the proliferation of state abortion bans.

Until we get lawmakers who will end the practice of unpaid leave, here is one weird trick to make sure companies can’t slash your benefits.

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