Employee Engagement

Why You Need a Strong Parental Leave Policy


Today’s workplace is undergoing a shift as employers seek to retain workers, become more diverse and inclusive, and provide first-world standards for employees and their families. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world to not have government mandated paid maternity leave. In Europe, maternity leave ranges from 14 to 52 weeks, depending on the country. Some countries pay 100% of previous earnings for the full leave, while others pay a percentage of the mother’s income, or full pay for a certain time and a percentage after that.

While the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees eligible U.S. employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons, companies are picking up the slack for the lack of additional legislation by offering paid leave policies for maternity, paternity, and family-related events. States have been stepping in as well, with paid family leave policies in ​California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Minnesota. The state of New York’s policy will go into effect in 2018, and policies in Washington D.C. and Washington state will take effect in 2020.

While these policies help, it’s up to employers in every state to lead the way in providing first-world benefits for their valued workers. Our new eBook, Glassdoor’s Guide to Parental and Family Leave offers guidance on what factors to consider as you develop or modify your leave policies and tips how to build and promote a family-friendly culture. But first, it’s important to understand why paid leave is so important for today’s families.

Paid Leave Helps Reduce the Gender Pay Gap

With an overall gender wage gap of 24.1% and an adjusted gap of 5.4%, the United States is far from gender equality in the workplace. The lack of legally required paid maternity leave compounded with conscious and unconscious gender bias has led many women throughout the years to chose between career and family. At the same time, a federal policy that does not guarantee pay for women while they take maternity leave puts financial stress on families, limits women’s lifetime earning potential, and impacts retirement savings.

  • Only 58% of U.S. employers offer at least some replacement pay for maternity leave. Of those, just 10% offer full pay.
  • 70% of moms with kidsyounger than 18 are in the labor force, up from 47% in 1975. About three-fourths of all employed moms are working full time.
  • 27% of women have quit a job due to familial responsibilities.
  • Mothers spent an average of about <15 hours a week on child care and 18 hours a week on housework in 2015.

Studies in the U.S. and in countries with more generous leave policies show that women who take paid maternity leave are more likely to return to work, stay employed long term, and maintain their earnings over time. Employers that assist women through parenthood are more likely to retain them, thereby increasing their value to the organization as their careers develop. They also ease the financial burden of adding another household member and reduce the stress of managing career, home, and family.

Paid Leave Helps Men Become Better Fathers

The important time of family bonding that occurs during paternity leave helps men become more responsible parents. Studies show paternity leave makes men more likely to be involved with the child’s care in the long term, and it can even improve the child’s performance in school later on.

  • 15% of employers offer some paid time off for spouses/partners of birth mothers.
  • At companies that provide paid leave to new parents, mothers receive nearly twice as many days as fathers (41 versus 22, respectively).
  • In 2015, fathers reported spending, on average, seven hours a week on child care – almost triple the time they provided back in 1965. Fathers put in about nine hours a week on household chores in 2015, up from four hours in 1965.
  • About a quarter of couples (27%) who live with children younger than 18 are in families where only the father works, down from about half (47%) in 1970.

As men and women increasingly share financial responsibilities, they share parenting responsibilities as well. While mothers are still more likely to take most of the responsibility for child-rearing, paternity leave sets the stage for a more egalitarian household, and offers children more support.

Paid Leave Helps Those Who Need it Most

All humans experience birth, illness and death, whether or not they work an hourly or salary job. Some companies have different family policies for salaried versus hourly workers. Without employer-covered paid leave, many lower-income women cannot afford to take the full 12 weeks off allotted by the FMLA. They are often dependent on government assistance such as short-term disability, Medicaid, and food stamps to make up for the shortfall of lost income.

With another mouth to feed, the 6–8 weeks of short-term disability payments determines the amount of time these new mothers can afford to take off. If employers want to create an inclusive culture and reach first-world standards, they must consider the impact to all the families their organization supports, not just the families of workers in the corporate office.

Our eBook Glassdoor’s Guide to Parental and Family Leave offers additional facts and employer examples of successful family-friendly policies.  Download it today to get started on giving your employees the world-class benefits that set your company apart for generations to come.

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