A bill advocating for PAID parental leave for federal workers recently passed in the Senate. The bill will provide federal employees with up to 12 weeks paid parental leave per year. The policy, set for implementation by October 2020, would allow federal employees to take the leave coinciding with the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. This is the first major benefit expansion of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  since 1993.

Why does this matter?  

The U.S. is one of the only industrialized countries to not offer paid parental leave for federal workers. In fact, a recent report conducted by Unicef, showed that out of 41 of the wealthiest countries, the United States ranked very last in mount of paid leave available to mothers.

Doesn’t FMLA already cover parental leave?

FMLA offers protected leave for up to 12 weeks, however, it is usually unpaid. the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 17% of companies offered paid parental leave while 89% offer unpaid. It’s no surprise that loss of income is the most common reason people don’t take leave or go back to work sooner than the available time. Middle and higher-income workers are much more likely to have access to paid time off through employer-provided paid leave benefits or accrued time off than lower-income employees, according to a 2016 Pew Research Survey.

Provisions on companies and states that offer paid parental leave

While some states in the U.S. offer paid parental leave insurance programs to eligible workers, those programs are few and far between, difficult to be “eligible” for, and only available in a small minority of states. The result: only 14% of civilian workers have access to any amount of paid parental leave. (Forbes: Unicef Study Confirms US ranks last for family friendly policies)

How does this affect me as an employer? 

There are multiple benefits for companies to offer paid leave. Granted smaller sized companies may not have the financial means to offer such benefit, but for those who can, offering a paid parental leave program;

1.    Improves employee retention, which saves employer’s money through reduced turnover cost.

2.    Increases your companies desirability as an employer, thus attracting higher caliber of talent

3.    Improves employee morale

4.    Improved individual productivity. The greater work-life balance enabled by paid parental leave is key to individual employee productivity. Returning to work early produces poor results in distracted employees and more unplanned absences.

  1. Narrowing wage/promotion gaps. By setting leave expectations and making men eligible for spousal leave, the wage and promotion gap between men and women should be narrowed (although the battle may shift to childless workers versus families).

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