The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows new parents to take up to 12 weeks unpaid time off, however that is 12 weeks without pay. This benefit is drastically different for parents who adopt a new child, who are not guaranteed any paid time off. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2016 Employee Benefits research, only 12 percent of US organizations offered paid paternity leave, and 18 percent offered paid maternity leave. Currently, the US is the only industrialized country that does not have any guarantee surrounding paid parental leave.
Who is paving the way?
Seeing the need for paid time off for new parents, many companies are taking it upon themselves to grant their employees that time off.
Ikea: As of December, 2016 Ikea offers all salaried and hourly employees up to four months of paid parental leave. It differs depending on the amount of time that an employee has worked there. Previously, new mothers could collect six to eight weeks of paid disability leave, the new policy will apply to all new foster, adoptive, or birth parents.
Netflix: For the first year of a child being in a parent’s life, the parents are able to take as much paid time off as necessary. Netflix has allowed employees to work with their managers to find the best work/life balance for them.
American Express: In December 2016 American Express announced that they would be increasing their paid parental leave to 20 weeks, and for expecting mothers an additional six to eight weeks paid time off should they need additional medical assistance. In addition, they also offer family-friendly benefits that include back-up care for 20 days a year per dependent, a program for expectant mothers, and flexible work arrangements.
Etsy: Etsy has committed to allowing both parents 26 weeks of paid time off when welcoming a new child into their home. The CEO found that the time he spent off with his new son to be extremely valuable to their relationship, so to add to that time as well as remain competitive in the field Etsy upped their five week policy to 26 weeks.
Coca-Cola: Coke is trying a gender neutral policy when it comes to paid parental leave. They hope that by making it gender neutral mothers won’t feel as if they need to take it, but they can enjoy it with their partner. All new parents will receive six weeks of paid parental leave.
Adobe: In November 2015, Adobe introduced a 26 week program for mothers, 10 of which is medical leave. The 16 weeks is available for all new primary caregivers. For non-primary caregivers they can receive four weeks paid leave.
Would a paid parental leave policy hurt your company?
For employers who are wary of offering paid time off for new parents, it can actually help with retention. More employees are looking for places that offer good benefits- parental leave being one of them.
States Making Changes
Nevada: In Nevada, employers are required to allow four hours of leave each school year for parents to attend school-based activities.
California: In California the law has allowed for paid family leave. It provides up to six weeks of partial pay to employees who have taken off work to care for a family member or bond with a new child.
New Jersey: For both parents to receive paid leave, they can apply for the New Jersey Paid Family Leave. This allows for six weeks paid time off to bond with the baby. In New Jersey they have developed the NJ Family Leave Act. It guarantees job protection for both parents for 12 weeks, but is unpaid. However, it can be used in conjunction with FLMA for mothers. NJ has also developed the Family Building Act which requires coverage for infertility treatments.
Rhode Island: Rhode Island has a variety of regulations that protect a new parent’s paycheck. Temporary disability provides partially paid leave for pregnant mother with complications before childbirth and to recover afterwards. Short term disability can be purchased prior to conception and would allow for an increase of pay during pregnancy leave. In 2014 RI a new law took effect, Temporary Caregiver. This allows for four weeks in order for a caregiver to take care of any family member, whether or not it is a new child. For maternity purposes, a woman may take six to eight weeks of paid parental leave
Washington DC: Passed in June, 2017 DC residents who welcome a child into their home will receive up to 90% of their pay for eight-weeks.
Closing the Wage Gap
When you think of people taking off work, you may not consider how it would affect the wage gap. However, if women are not the only ones offered parental leave the stigma attached that they are meant to be caretakers would start to dissipate. Traditionally, parental leave has been favored for women, and if it’s an option for men they may not decide to take it. However, by granting an overarching parental leave program employees are more likely to reduce gender bias at home.
As women were traditionally considered to be the caretakers, especially of children, and the men the bread winners, women were given time off to care for their new child. A gender blind parental leave policy alters this belief. Previously women didn’t make up as much as the workforce, now they make up about half. Four out of five families with children at home are not “traditional” in the sense that the father brings home the money, and the mother is the homemaker. By giving both parents the opportunity to take time off with a new child, it pushes towards equality, as well as acknowledges the changes that are already taking place in the workforce.
Studies of developed countries have taken into consideration the long-term effects of men specifically taking parental leave when a new child arrives, and overall they tend to be more involved with child care activities.
In Sweden, fathers are required to take two months of parental leave before the child is 8 or they will not receive government benefits. For those who take the time, a mother’s income increases almost 7% for almost every month of paternity leave.
Helping New Parents Adjust Back to Work
When parents come back from parental leave, there is an adjustment period, especially depending upon how much time they were able to take off. Not only is it important to catch them up on any changes, or give them any refreshers they may need but to also allow them to feel comfortable re-entering the workforce.
Some companies, like Menlo Innovations, have a Cube and Cradles program. This program gave mothers a room for them to be with their children, but also bring their babies with them to work. When they are ready, they will bring their kids to daycare. If the parents aren’t with them all day, some companies offer onsite daycare, or subsidized babysitting services.
Other places provide backup care funds for parents when their first choice falls through. This means a parent doesn’t have to use their own sick days or personal days to care for a child just because their regular care didn’t work out one day.
For some parents good options include being able to telecommute or just a flexible work schedule. If they have viable options surrounding their schedule they are more likely to stay and figure it out rather than having no or few options.