One of the saddest – but also inspiring -- things we’ve heard about recently is about the effort of many cash-strapped expecting mothers turning to crowd-funding sites to raise money for their unpaid maternity leaves from work.
Since the U.S. federal law regarding family leave, FMLA, only offers unpaid job protection for 12 weeks (and only if you’ve worked for at least a year at a business that employs at least 50 people within a 75 mile radius), many working women find themselves unable to take the time off they need to adequately recover from childbirth, much less, bond with their newborn children.
According to recent coverage of these fundraising efforts by the Today Show, Buzzfeed, and the Washington Post, thousands of women are turning to websites like GoFundMe, YouCaring, GiveForward, and Indiegogo to raise money to cover for new baby items like diapers or just a few more days off work to spend with their new baby. The amounts are typically modest, and around a few thousand dollars. Today, a search for the word “maternity leave” on GoFundMe returns over 1,500 results.
Reading through the stories of the women and families raising funds on these sites humanizes the statistics we already knew about the lack of paid family leave in the United States. 87% of civilian (i.e. non-governmental) workers in America work for employers who do not offer any paid leave for family illnesses or the birth of a new child. In light of these numbers and the fact that money raised through crowdfunding generally only comes with a 5-8% one-time fee to be paid to the crowdfunding site, it’s actually surprising more families haven’t turned to crowdfunding – which typically comes from friends, community and extended family.
Though many of the employers we highlight at Fairygodboss are those with higher-than-average paid parental leave policies and we see tremendous momentum in the number of companies announcing parental leave policies this year, we know there are millions of women the workforce who simply don’t enjoy these benefits. In fact, given how rare maternity leave is, we’re surprised there aren’t even more efforts on crowd-funding sites. The vast majority of women in the workforce must either take out short-term disability insurance, opt into their employers’ plans or simply save up their vacation and PTO benefits. It’s no wonder the average age for a first-time mother keeps rising in the United States.
If you’re one of these women crowdfunding your maternity leave, we want to hear from you. Did you try to negotiate for any paid time off? How long do you plan on taking? How does this impact your decision about when (and whether) you plan on returning to work?
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