As the pressure for paid family and medical leave increases, a new study confirms what many already know. Unpaid maternity leave is a public health crisis. Only 19 percent of workers have access to paid family leave through their employers—that leaves many mothers with only two options, go back to work just days after pregnancy or go into debt by taking unpaid time off.
The study conducted by Breeze surveyed 1,001 employed women between 18-44 and found that 74 percent wouldn’t have any cash savings left after eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave. To make ends meet, 56 percent said they would consider taking on an uncomfortable amount of credit card debt to cover expenses. Fifty-four percent said they would consider a personal loan to cover costs, while 49 percent said they might dip into their retirement account.
For many women saving up enough to cover unpaid maternity leave or creating a safety net can be difficult. Breeze, an insurance provider themselves, points to [short-term disability insurance]( as a possible solution for mothers. In fact, according to the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association, pregnancy is the most commonly-cited reason for short-term disability insurance claims.
However, to obtain short-term disability insurance, expectant moms would have to apply for it before they knew they were pregnant. This is a great option for moms who are making a plan to have a baby or can afford to take on the costs of short-term disability insurance for an extended period of time. But for many women living paycheck to paycheck or providing for a family already, this isn’t always an option.
The ideal solution? Federal paid family and medical leave. Eighty-nine percent of women surveyed answered “yes” when asked if they believe the federal government should offer some sort of paid maternity leave program. For many organizations and mothers, this is a right already provided in many other countries that should have been addressed long before now.