(NewsNation) — Many companies across the U.S. are cutting back on the amount of paid weeks of maternity and paternity leave they offer post-pandemic.
New data shows that 53% of employers offered maternity leave in 2020, and only 35% are offering it this year, according to the Society of Human Resources Management. When it comes to paternity leave, 27% of employers are offering it in 2022, from 44% in 2020.
The declines may stem from companies changing their leave policies back to what they were in 2019 after extending more parental benefits to workers during the pandemic, according to SHRM.
While there has been an increase in companies cutting back post-pandemic, Ruth Martin, senior vice president and chief workplace justice officer for Moms Rising, said this isn’t a new issue.
“We have a paid leave crisis in this country, and we have zero weeks of guaranteed paid leave as a national standard across the county,” she said. “That means many, many, many people are taking unpaid time away from work right when they need it most whether to welcome a new child or to care for a serious medical issue.”
Leading up to the pandemic, many companies were offering more paid time off as a way to lure new talent amid high shortages. Amid the COVID-19 era, companies also expanded benefits, including paid time off.
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, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Now, many private companies are reducing the amount of paid leave offered to new parents to the legally required minimums, which can range from nothing to eight or 12 weeks, depending on the region, the WSJ reported.
“Obviously, need leave to welcome a new child into our home, but we also need leave for other points in our lives and for your own serious medical issue. To take care of an aging parent who maybe needs to be moved into memory care or you might be dealing with a cancer diagnosis yourself and need some time away from work,” Martin said.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 required covered employers to provide employees with job-protected, unpaid leave for qualified medical or family reasons, but not everyone is covered by it.
“For many people, unpaid leave basically means no leave because they can’t afford to take that kind of time away from work without pay,” Martin said.
Meanwhile, certain industries are offering more paid leave than others. More than half — 54% — of professional, scientific and technical employers offer paid maternity leave separate from what is required by law, up from 52% in 2020, according to data from SHRM.
Roughly a third of employers in construction, utilities, agriculture and mining and government and education offer paid maternity-leave benefits.