Parental leave is a major issue in this current election cycle. Democratic candidates claim that employers should be required to provide paid leave, whereas Republicans are saying that mandated leave could bankrupt small businesses. The Obama administration has pushed for passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which would offer six weeks of paid leave for about half of the workforce.
Many other countries provide more robust, government-sponsored family leave programs compared to the United States. However, some businesses are instituting their own generous parental leave policies in an effort to attract and retain talented employees.
It’s a benefit that today’s employees are looking for. In fact, a Glassdoor survey found that it’s one of the top perks employees wanted instead of a pay raise, with young people, in particular, interested in perks. This isn’t surprising as many millennials are starting families. As the job market has strengthened, candidates have become selective about which jobs they’re willing to take. Part of that calculation is parental leave.
The United States is currently the only industrialized country without mandated paid parental leave, according to CNN. That hasn’t stopped some large employers from offering this valuable perk. A Society for Human Resource Management report found that about one-fifth of all employers offered some form of parental leave.
It’s become fairly standard for this perk to be part of tech workers’ compensation packages. Netflix made waves last year by rolling out a program that provides a full year of paid parental leave, putting it on par with democratic-socialist Scandinavian countries. Adobe now offers up to 26 weeks of paid leave, while Amazon offers up to 20. It’s not just in the tech industry, with Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson, and some other companies offering support too.
Those on both sides of the political aisle will continue to debate whether parental leave should be paid for by taxpayers or not. However, for employees and employers, paid parental leave offers substantial benefits.
Family leave is correlated with mothers being more likely to return to return to work, to work more hours, and to earn higher wages, according to a study from the University of Virginia. It’s also associated with better health outcomes for both mothers and their babies.
Being a new parent is a full-time job in and of itself. New parents are getting little sleep and they’re adjusting to the demands of having an infant who is entirely reliant on them. Not to mention all of the new expenses, from diapers to medical care, that parents have to provide.
The last thing they want to worry about is working another full-time job. Employers who want to avoid expensive turnover shouldn’t wait for the government to act. Those offering flexibility for employees and their families will be winners in the labor marketplace.