Studies show that investments into early childhood health and wellness have huge benefits for children, parents, and society as a whole. In the workplace, these investments in families can improve employee loyalty and retention, attract new talent, and reduce healthcare and logistical costs related to maternity. But when we think of maternity, we most often associate it with parental leave, which is only a piece of the support pregnant people need.
With 73% of mothers working, and almost half of American families with both parents working full time, employers need to offer more than unpaid time off. Here we look at what employees are currently offered across the US as well as the family-friendly benefits that could help them get the additional care and support they need.
What are maternity benefits?
Maternity benefits are the suite of advantages employers can offer pregnant people and new parents in their organizations. These benefits include (but are not limited to) paid family leave, reimbursements, supplemental childcare, maternity-specific health benefits, and telehealth coverage.
Such benefits typically include mandatory and optional offerings, including:
- Paid and unpaid leave
- Health plans or platforms with maternity coverage for prenatal care, delivery, and postnatal care
- Maternity insurance benefits to provide financial protections for medical expense
- Other ancillary benefits
The makeup of these plans vary between company to company, but studies show that the best workplaces for parents include a wide range of parenting-specific benefits like fertility reimbursement and support, telehealth platforms, and access to specialty care.
Comprehensive, inclusive, and continuous
What makes a maternity benefit modern? It must be comprehensive, inclusive, and continuous. Comprehensive benefits cover the whole person through their pregnancy journey, including their physical, emotional, and financial health. Inclusive benefits cover all paths to parenthood and all types of families, not just traditional ones. And continuous benefits offer support throughout the journey, providing additional resources between appointments and beyond.
The Family and Medical Leave Act
When employers think about maternity, they often first think about leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with unpaid family leave for up to 12 weeks. This can be for:
- caring for a new child from the child's birth until their first birthday
- the placement of an adopted or fostered child and care for the first year
- a health condition that means the employee is unable to perform key roles of their job
- caring for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition
However, the U.S. is one of the only developed countries that doesn't mandate paid maternity leave.
Paid family leave helps everyone
Paid maternity leave gives new parents the time they need to bond with their children, recover from the physical and emotional cost of pregnancy, and adjust to a new lifestyle without the stress of finances interfering. Paid leave has several benefits for parents and their children. For new parents, paid parental leave can mean:
- Improved breastfeeding rates
- Reduced symptoms of postpartum anxiety and depression
- Improved retention of women in the workplace
For children, more time with their parents early on has ample benefits as well:
For employers, offering a comprehensive maternity and paternity benefits package can result in:
Paid family leave can also greatly reduce the financial burdens of early childhood, especially among vulnerable populations that are disproportionately impacted by unpaid leave. Despite the outsized impact leave can have on parents and children, most new birthing parents take nine weeks or less of unpaid leave, while the majority of their partners take only 10 days or less of leave. Leave, when unpaid, is simply too much of a hindrance to careers and financial stability for the majority of new parents.
How long should maternity leave be?
For companies looking to create equitable maternity leave policies, it's crucial to offer enough paid leave to new parents to be effective, without losing productivity for so long as to offset the benefits. The International Labor Organization guidelines call for a minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave, but recommend at least 14. 119 countries offer at least 12, 62 of which offer over 14. Your program should include at least 12 weeks of paid family leave for new parents to ensure they have the time they need to care for and connect with their new baby.
Maternity leave entitlement by state
While FMLA provides some protections for employees around unpaid maternity leave, some states have further codified unpaid and paid leave into their laws. While extended paid leave is the recommended best-in-class offering, HR leaders should understand the state-by-state laws to ensure their maternity leave policies are compliant at both a state and federal level.
Short term disability insurance benefits
Temporary disability insurance can also be used to provide cash benefits after birth with pregnancy covered as a short term disability that makes a person unable to work. Employers are not required by law to provide short term disability insurance but can receive a federal tax deduction if they do so the benefits work both ways. The coverage required also depends on the state.
To receive disability insurance benefits, employees often have to apply before conceiving to qualify for a pre-existing condition. The results are 50-70% of the employees income for up to eight weeks after birth depending on the type of delivery.
States that mandate unpaid or paid maternity leave
Whilst the FMLA applies across the US, there are specific rules for each state:
- California: Employers must provide up to 12 weeks unpaid family leave plus four months of maternity leave. Employees who have contributed to the Disability Insurance Elective Coverage at some point in the previous 18 months are eligible for state-sponsored paid leave.
- Colorado: The state's Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMLI Act) starts in 2024, whereby an employer will have to provide up to 12 weeks of leave per year. Those who experience complications from pregnancy or birth can receive up to an additional four weeks.
- Connecticut: All pregnant and adoptive employees entitled to 12 weeks unpaid leave, and people who have been employed for 12 months and have worked more than 1,000 hours are eligible for paid maternity leave.
- Delaware: From January 1, 2026, the state will implement the Delaware Paid Leave policy, ensuring employers receive up to 12 weeks paid time to care for a new child per year, covering up to 80% of their weekly pay.
- District of Columbia: Under the state's Paid Leave Act an employer must provide up to 12 weeks of weekly benefits and 2 weeks to receive prenatal care.
- Hawaii: Employers with 100+ employees must offer up to four weeks of unpaid leave per year. Paid maternity leave is also available through the state's Temporary Disability Insurance benefits.
- Iowa: Companies with over four employees must offer eight weeks of unpaid leave under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
- Kentucky: Employees who adopt a child under the age of seven can take six weeks of unpaid maternity leave.
- Louisiana: Companies with over 25 employees must provide six weeks of unpaid leave, plus four months in the case of a pregnancy-related short term disability.
- Maine: The Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements Act (MFMLRA) states that employers with over 15 employees must offer up to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave over two years. From May 1, 2026, a new Paid Family and Medical Leave Law will take effect, increasing this to 12 weeks.
- Maryland: Maryland's Parental Leave Act (MPLA) requires companies with 15-49 employees to offer six weeks unpaid family leave during any 12-month period.
- Massachusetts: Parental Leave (formerly called MA Maternity Leave in the Workplace) states companies with more than six employees must provide eight weeks of unpaid family leave for birth or adoption.
- Minnesota: If employees have worked at their employer for at least one year, they are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a year of giving birth or adoption. Only applies to companies with more than 21 employees.
- Montana: Public employers are required to give mothers what is considered 'reasonable' leave for the temporary disabilities associated with birth. In the case of a normal pregnancy, this is up to six weeks of unpaid leave, and fathers and adoptive parents can take up to 15 days.
- New Hampshire: Employers with over six employees are required to grant unpaid family leave for temporary disability related to pregnancy, with no set time limit. If an employer provides paid leave for non-pregnancy-related reasons, they are also required to provide it for maternity leave.
- New Jersey: Companies with over 50 employees must offer 12 weeks of leave, spread over two years. All employees receive cash benefits, paid through the state's temporary disability insurance.
- New Mexico: A proposed Paid Family and Medical Leave Act is under way, enabling employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
- New York: All private employers must provide 10 weeks unpaid leave, and employees who have worked at least six months get 12 weeks of paid leave. After giving birth, an employee may be eligible for short term disability benefits as well as paid family leave however they cannot be taken at the same time.
- Oregon: The Oregon Family Leave Act states that companies with over 25 employees must offer up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for pregnancy related temporary disability. Employees can also take 12 additional weeks each for parental leave and sick child leave, totaling 36 weeks.
- Rhode Island: Companies with 50+ employees must provide 13 weeks leave over two years, and all employees are eligible for paid family leave through state's Temporary Disability Insurance benefits.
- South Dakota: Pregnancy must be treatment like any other temporary disability whereby employees are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
- Tennessee: Companies must offer four months of unpaid leave.
- Vermont: Companies with over 10 employees must offer 12 weeks unpaid leave, covered by the Vermont Parental Leave Law.
- Washington: All employers must offer paid leave, and those with over 50 employees must also provide job protection.
- Washington D.C.: Employees can take up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period, and employees receive eight weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
- West Virginia: Companies with over 12 employees must provide reasonable accommodation, including unpaid time off, for pregnant employees.
- Wisconsin: Employers with over 50 employees must provide six weeks of unpaid leave for birth or adoption. Those who purchase short term disability before conception may be entitled to cash benefits during pregnancy or after birth depending on where and how they enroll.
- Vermont: An employer with 10 or more workers must provide up to 12 weeks of leave in a one-year period under the Vermont Parental Leave Law.
Family-friendly benefits to supplement care
In addition to leave and disability insurance, companies are adding family-friendly benefits to their benefits ecosystem that help parents get additional care, support, and assistance throughout their family journeys. These benefits include access to specialty providers, reimbursements for fertility treatments and childcare, breast milk shipping, and more.
Access to specialty providers
It takes a village to raise a family, and parents and parents-to-be nearly universally need more support from physicians and providers than they're currently getting. Pregnant people only have limited and short prenatal appointments, often leaving expectant parents with more questions than answers. Increasing virtual access to specialty care providers—like OB-GYNs, reproductive endocrinologists, doulas, mental health professionals, lactation consultants, and more—can fill in the gaps left by traditional in-person care. Employees can access additional support at any time along their family journey, all from the comfort of their own home.
Pregnancy and postpartum can be a stressful, confusing, and sometimes overwhelming experience. Benefits that provide access to care navigation can help expecting and aspiring parents access the right care at the right time. Maven's Care Advocates, for example, are assigned to a member at the beginning of their journey and proactively reach out to them. These Advocates can walk employees through their individual care plan and provide recommendations for providers both in-person and on the platform, in addition to helping them navigate their benefits plans.
Breast milk shipping
For new parents, feeding schedules pose a huge obstacle for building routines and returning to work. Breast milk storage and shipping help them plan ahead for work trips, travel, and even every day commuting, so parents can ensure they have safely stored food for their children. Additionally, breastmilk shipping can help improve breastfeeding rates and duration for nursing mothers, which leads to better health outcomes for both parents and their children, potentially reducing early childhood healthcare costs.
Incorporating these aspects into your benefits plans can help ensure you cover all parents on all paths to parenthood, improving loyalty and retention while reducing healthcare costs.
Creating a modern maternity leave and benefits policy
To create a maternity leave and benefits policy that's modern, inclusive, and equitable, it's vital you consider all types of families and all paths to parenthood. You should strive to meet employees in your organization where they are, and provide benefits that correspond to their needs and lived experiences.
Survey your workforce
A good way to get started is to survey your employees for what benefits they want and need most. You can send out a company-wide survey, or ask your ERGs to distribute survey questions to get more relevant answers.
Identify challenges and gaps
Using the information you have at your disposal, identify the gaps in needs and care that pregnant people or aspiring parents face in your organization. Are people pursuing fertility treatments, adoption, or surrogacy getting the support they need? Are healthcare costs related to pregnancy or postpartum complications rising? Are employees with children struggling to return to work and resume their duties? Do employees feel cared for during leave and after they return to work?
Another angle to consider is how your employee benefits program accounts for alternative paths to parenthood. Are employees building families through assisted reproductive technology, adoption, or surrogacy adequately supported? Are fertility benefits and treatments accounted for and subsidized?
Consider the whole-person approach
Starting and raising a family is not a one-and-done experience. Building a family is a lifelong commitment and journey, affecting your employees' mental and physical health. A modern maternity benefits plan accounts for the whole person, including their clinical, emotional, and financial needs. Does your benefits package account for continuous, holistic care? Is mental health for parents adequately supported? Do you have plans for challenging pregnancy journeys? Does your health insurance company account for various forms of specialty care that parents or their children may need?
Create a return-to-work plan
The postpartum period, for birthing parents and their partners alike, is a pivotal time for your employees. Often referred to as the fourth trimester, it can be a difficult time for parents as they adjust to a new family member, new routines, and new responsibilities. Modern maternity leave and benefits include support for postpartum needs, recognizing the impact maternal mental health can have on workplace productivity and long-term health outcomes. Does your benefits plan include resources for mental health, parent coaching, career coaching, and other postpartum needs? Is your leave period adequate enough to allow parents time to bond, adjust, and reset after pregnancy?
Consider creating a flexible return-to-work plan with employees who are expecting: this may include a phased approach and reasonable accommodations such as remote working or flexible hours. Align with your employee on timelines, expectations, resources, and needs, so they can find support and understand the expectations upon return.
Implementing Maven in your modern maternity leave and benefits plan
Extended leave and benefit payments that go beyond the minimum are the first step towards providing a better maternity offering for new mothers and fathers in the workplace. But parents need more to excel at home and in their role. With the majority of new moms heading back to work, employers have an opportunity to reduce the overwhelm of motherhood and provide the care they need.
Maven is the leading women's and family health company, connecting working parents and parents-to-be with the resources they need to thrive on their path to and through parenthood. Through our solution, parents can access on-demand healthcare, 24/7 specialist support, clinically-vetted content, and community groups and forums of their peers.
To find out how Maven can help modernize your company's maternity benefits package, request a demo today.
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