Maternity Leave Numbers Decline Since 2019, National Study Reveals

Forbes | Since 2019, of the ten researched-backed, family-friendly policies tracked by The Best Place for Working Parents, maternity leave is the only one that has declined as a company offering since 2019.



In partnership with Empactiv Analytics, The Best Place for Working Parents has published its National Trends report. Through the self-assessment of over 2,000 small to enterprise-sized businesses employing more than 3 million people across the country, the study reviews how effectively family-friendly policies are being implemented across the United States.

While the report sought to track the rise and acceptance of these policies over time, it uncovered another interesting insight: the decline of maternity leave offerings.

Since 2019, of the ten researched-backed, family-friendly policies tracked by The Best Place for Working Parents, maternity leave is the only one that has declined as a company offering since 2019. Over the height of COVID, The Best Place for Working Parents saw this company benefit reach its lowest point (72.9% from March 2020 to April 2021); it has yet to return to a pre-COVID level of 82.2%.

Quite alarming timing, considering maternity leave is critical for the mental health of the mom, and since 2022, our nation has been in the midst of a mental health crisis. The decline in maternity leave offerings since 2019 not only raises alarms for working mothers but also intricately contributes to the escalating mental (and maternal mental) health crisis, a poignant connection underscoring the urgency for comprehensive workplace support.

Digging into this offering by size, Sadie Funk, National Director of The Best Place for Working Parents, considers the data encouraging. “Micro and small businesses lead the way in thinking about how to innovatively support their working parents. This year we saw the percentage of micro-sized businesses that offer maternity leave slightly increase, which could indicate that small businesses are not far behind.”

Maternity leave is a crucial time for both mother and baby and yet it’s also a critical touchpoint for employers to show they support their employees. According to Funk, when that happens, it is a win-win. “Research shows that first-time mothers who use some form of paid leave are 32% less likely to quit their jobs before or after childbirth and are 19% more likely to return to the same employer after paid leave. Employers report that paid family leave either maintained or increased employee productivity (89%), profitability/performance (91%), turnover (96%), and employee morale (99%).”

The National Trends report also found that some male-dominated industries, such as the motor vehicle industry, are more likely to offer maternity leave than female-dominated industries, like healthcare. In doing so, male-dominated industries are developing a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining employees. Conversely, women have driven 80% of the overall growth in healthcare since the turn of the century, yet are less likely to receive evidence-based care from their own healthcare employers.

“The fact that (typically) male-dominated industries are stepping up on maternity leave and other benefits affirms the larger story of the national trends report – family-friendly benefits are no longer a nice to have, but a must-have for business leaders in all industries in companies of all sizes to attract and retain a motivated, productive workforce,” explains Funk.

The findings of the National Trends report highlight the pivotal role of family-friendly policies in today’s dynamic workforce. The overall decline in maternity leave offerings underscores the urgent need for businesses to reassess and enhance their support for working mothers, as it is a crucial step toward improving mental health and fostering a healthier work-life balance.

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