In the United States, nearly a quarter of employed mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, according to a new report from In These Times, a nonprofit magazine, which analyzed data from the Department of Labor and collected stories from mothers who kept working.
It’s not because they recover at a supernatural pace. Or because they value their jobs over their babies.
Some simply can’t afford the pay cut. Buying groceries for many American women trumps resting for as long as the doctor advises. So they go back to the office — even if the C-section cuts haven’t healed or a premature baby remains in the hospital.
National data point to a probable culprit: Only 13 percent of workers in the United States have access to any paid leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forty percent of US households with children under 18, meanwhile, rely heavily on a mother’s income, Pew data show.
A 2012 survey commissioned by the Department of Labor polled all workers who had taken family or medical leave. In These Times dug into the data further to learn what happened to new moms. They found 23 percent of women who left work to care for an infant took less than two weeks off.
Less educated workers appeared to have it much worse: Eighty percent of college graduates took at least six weeks off to care for a new baby, and only 54 percent of women without degrees did so.
And about 43 million American workers have no paid sick leave, or time off for parents to care for sick kids. Access depends on occupation. Those with the highest salaries often enjoy the most generous benefits: 88 percent of private sector managers and financial workers enjoy paid time off, more than double the rate among service workers (40 percent) and construction workers (38 percent).