Where Does Your Company Stand on Parental Leave?

September 12, 2017
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Paid Parental Leave Policy

When was the last time you updated your organization’s parental leave policy? If it’s been a couple of years, now might be a good time to take a look at it. Parental leave is an in-demand benefit when it comes to attracting and keeping today’s top talent, and business leaders are taking note.

A recent SHRM survey found that 30% of organizations currently provide paid maternity leave beyond that covered by short-term disability or state law. This is up from 26% just a year ago. And the survey also found that 24% of organizations now also offer paternity leave.

What’s prompting these companies to offer more than what’s required when it comes to parental leave? Take a look at what other organizations — possibly some of your competitors — are doing when it comes to parental leave, and why.

Businesses of All Sizes Offer Parental Leave

Lori Mihalich-Levin is a partner at Dentons US LLP, a large law firm, the founder of Mindful

Return, a company that helps new mothers transition to work after maternity leave, and the author of Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave. “My law firm offers a gender-neutral paid parental leave policy,” she says.  “Doesn’t matter if you’re the mom or the dad, or whether you’re the so-called primary caregiver.” Mihalich-Levin says that law firms today work hard to recruit and retain parents, and offering various benefits helps with these efforts.

Bonanza, a non-niche eCommerce marketplace (and proud Zenefits customer) also offers paid parental leave for all employees, regardless of gender or orientation, says Katy Ward, Bonanza’s HR manager. “In the modern working world, a majority of couples are part of a two-career household, sharing financial and home care responsibilities. Birth mothers, non-birth mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents are eligible for parental leave in order to bond with the new member of their family.” Ward says this leave helps both parents balance work and life, an important aspect of maintaining a healthy relationship with families while helping parents remain loyal to their employers.

Teresa Tanner is the chief operating officer of Fifth Third Bank, the 13-largest bank in America. Tanner says the team at Fifth Third understands the importance of supporting working parents and especially working mothers, who make up more than one-third of the female workforce. “The Bank offers four weeks of paid leave for new parents (moms and dads) who have a new baby, adopt or foster a child,” she says, noting that this is in addition to the 6 weeks of medical leave women get after giving birth.

Related reading: 5 Ways to Increase Employee Happiness

What’s The Big Deal With Parental Leave?

Today’s employees value parental leave to spend time with a new family member, though few American workers have access to paid parental leave. A new Pew Research Center study found that just 14% of civilian employees could get paid parental leave. Yet 88% of workers take unpaid leave – partly due to the 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave for eligible employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Yet, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, when marketing firm Fractl surveyed 2,000 U.S. workers between the ages of 18 and 81, 42% said they would give “some or heavy consideration” to paid maternity and paternity leave when comparing a higher paying job with a lower paying one that had better benefits. This tells employers that in a tough job market, offering parental leave could help entice a choice recruit, keep a valued employee, and potentially boost loyalty and engagement in an organization.

Pros and Cons of Offering Parental Leave

Extended parental leave costs companies money, and involves cross-training other staff members, hiring temporary workers, or subjecting co-workers to heavier workloads while the new parent is away. So Is offering additional parental leave really worth it?

Definitely, says Ward, who explains that although losing a staff member for an extended period of time undoubtedly impacts business, especially small-to-medium sized companies, it’s worth it. “The benefits of recruiting and retaining valuable employees by providing a fair and flexible policy far outweigh the negatives,” she says.

Competitive companies offer parental leave and other benefits to give them the edge in recruiting and retention.

“Parental leave is essential for recruiting top talent because it’s certainly something prospective employees look for when comparing multiple job opportunities,” says Tanner. Beyond the hiring process, strong parental benefits are critical for retaining employees after their leave ends. It also shows employees that families are important – and that we care about them inside and outside of the office.”

Ward says today’s employees often look beyond salary. “A comparable salary just isn’t enough anymore; the benefits package as a whole adds to the value of the position when a candidate is considering an employment offer,” she says. Young candidates entering the workforce may consider starting a family in the next few years. A parental leave policy attracts employees who want the freedom to devote time to family in addition to maintaining their employment status.”

Helpful resource: Types of Federally-Required and Recognized Leave

The Future of Parental Leave

As Ward points out, most countries around the world offer some form of parental leave for new parents in the workforce, and several U.S. states have already implemented paid family leave laws. She says this is the wave of the future.

“To stay competitive in the global and U.S. job markets, companies must offer parental leave benefits. Bonanza is ahead of the curve in offering a parental leave policy, but political trends indicate that in the future, this will be the norm.”

As more companies offer parental leave benefits above and beyond federal and state requirements, they’re also investing in programs to support transitioning parents back to work after parental leave.

Mihalich-Levin has worked with more than 400 new moms over the past three years as they return to work after leave, and says that before she created her course, “there was no curriculum for how to navigate this period of time in a professional, calm, and empowering way.”

Tanner says that support in getting back to work was something Fifth Third Bank employees were also looking for.

“Family leave is a critical component of any corporate policy, but from conversations with new moms at Fifth Third, we realized paid leave alone wasn’t enough because it didn’t fully support the transition back to work,” she says. “ That insight led to the development of our new Maternity Concierge program, which launched earlier this year.”

Tanner explains that the service helps working moms face the challenges of pregnancy, maternity leave and their return to work. “The Maternity Concierge program begins when a woman learns she is pregnant, continues through maternity leave, and ends when the baby turns one.Women work directly with a concierge specializing in maternity needs, who can help with everything from researching child care options and scheduling meal deliveries to finding photographers and planning baby showers.”

Parental leave is an in-demand benefit that appeals to today’s workers in various roles across small, mid-sized, and enterprise businesses. Consider updating your parental leave policy to attract and retain top talent to your organization.

Related reading: Everything You Need to Know About Employee Leave

About

Sarita Harbour is a business and personal finance writer who comes from a long line of business owners. When Sarita isn't writing, she's homeschooling her younger kids and encouraging her older children as they continue the entrepreneurial family tradition.

Category: Benefits, Health Care Cost


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