In her Words
When a Maternity Policy Disappoints
A mom-to-be laments her company’s incredibly shrinking benefits
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first read my company’s maternity-leave policy. I was six months pregnant with my first child and had finally gotten around to getting the details, thinking I was good for about 12 paid weeks and then some. Little did I know that my company had cut maternity benefits in recent years to save money.
I wasn’t alone. Today, far fewer employers provide full pay during the period of maternity-related disability. According to a 2008 survey of 1,110 U.S. companies by the Families and Work Institute, only 16 percent of employers provide full pay today, down from 27 percent a decade ago.
My human-resources manager gave me the cold, hard facts: I had to wait two weeks to begin earning maternity-leave pay, which meant I had to use accrued vacation time to make up for it. Then, I would be paid only around 60 percent of my gross regular earnings. My heart dropped: My husband and I had just bought a house, and we were both responsible for the mortgage payments. I kicked myself for not looking into this policy before I got pregnant.
Furthermore, I learned that the company’s disability insurance carrier essentially bets on when you’re going to give birth in order to reduce its direct costs. In other words, if I give birth more than two weeks after my due date, then I will get the full six weeks of maternity pay. However, if I work up to my August due date and gave birth a few days later, I will not meet the two-week waiting period, and my company – not the carrier – will have to pay my accrued vacation pay. This essentially will reduce my maternity benefit to just four weeks of pay, not to mention reduce my paid vacation time!
Cutting corners on maternity-leave policies seemingly reduces one of the best experiences of a lifetime to something akin to a horse race – with the insurance company as the bettor and my employer selling the scratch sheet. When my daughter is born, I plan to look in her eyes and tell her she was worth every penny lost and then some.