Increasingly pregnancy is no longer a bump on the career paths of American women. There has been a significant shift about how the work world views expectant mothers, and how pregnant women view their commitments to their jobs. Today, expectant mothers are much more likely to get paid leave from their employers than they were even 10 years ago.
According to U.S. Census Bureau analysis of women’s work experience before their first child, 51 percent of working women who had their first birth between 2006 and 2008 received paid leave (i.e., maternity leave, sick leave, vacation) compared to 42 percent between 1996 and 2000.
The likelihood that a mother has access to paid leave varies with age, hours worked and education. About 24 percent of women under age 22 used paid leave compared with 61 percent of women 25 and older. Full-time workers were more likely to use paid-leave benefits than part-time workers (56 percent and 21 percent, respectively). Women who have not graduated from high school are less likely to use paid maternity leave than women who have graduated from college.
The analysis also found that women are more likely to work while pregnant than they were in the 1960s. Two thirds (66 percent) of women who had their first birth between 2006 and 2008 worked during pregnancy, compared to 44 percent who had their first birth between 1961 and 1965. Older mothers are more likely than younger mothers to work closer to the end of their pregnancies. Sixty-seven percent of mothers 22 and older worked into the last month of their pregnancy, compared to 56 percent of mothers younger than 22.
Interestingly, women were also working later in pregnancy; 82 percent of working women who had their first birth between 2006 and 2008 worked within one month of their child's birth compared with 73 percent of working women who gave birth to their first child between 1991 and 1995.
According to the Census Bureau, eight out of 10 mothers who worked during their pregnancy returned to work within a year of their child's birth to the same employer. About seven out of 10 of these women returned to a job at the same pay, skill level and hours worked per week. In addition, 22 percent of first time mothers quit their jobs, 16 percent while they were pregnant and another 6 percent by 12 weeks after their child's birth.