In 2017, Millennial moms accounted for 77% of short-term disability maternity claims for Unum, a leading provider of disability benefits in the United States.
“Millennials make up more than a third of the workforce and many of them have recently started or plan on starting a family soon,” said Greg Breter, senior vice president of benefits at Unum. “We anticipate seeing these numbers hold steady or even rise in the years to come, which can have important implications for employers.”
Short-term disability insurance replaces part of a working mother’s income for up to six to eight weeks, depending on the kind of delivery. In 2017, Unum paid nearly $100 million in short-term disability benefits to new mothers, helping them recover from delivery and bond with their newborns.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials are the largest generation since Baby Boomers, with about 71 million people in the United States born between 1981 and 2000. By comparison, Generation X, born 1965 to 1980, has about 66 million people. Millennials are expected to overtake Boomers in population next year as their numbers swell (due to immigrant migration) to 73 million and Boomers decline to 72 million.
“Particularly among Millennial mothers who may be newer to the workforce, the financial assistance provided by short term disability insurance can make a huge difference,” Mr. Breter said. “But the reality is that most working women aren’t protected by short-term disability coverage, and this can leave them exposed to financial risk as they step away from work to bond with and care for their newborn.”
The United States Census Bureau estimates that around four million babies are born each year, with two-thirds born to mothers in the workforce. More than 40% of new working mothers, however, won’t receive paid leave.
According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, 57% of parents with household incomes less than $30,000 who took parental leave say they took on debt to deal with the loss of income. About half (48%) say they went on public assistance or put off paying their bills (46%).
Millennial parents are also looking for more clarity and variety in the kinds of benefits their employers offer. A Unum micro-study in April, 2018, of 65 Millennials who delivered or adopted a child in the previous year indicated that 48% found the understanding of their parental leave benefits to be somewhat or very difficult. When asked what they most desired from their employers, 72% said flexible hours upon their return to work, while 62% desired paid parental leave.