Change.org threw down the gauntlet this week, announcing 18 weeks of fully paid leave for all parents and challenging other U.S. employers to close the gap when it comes to offering paid parental leave.
The challenge, according to a blog post by Change.org Head of Global HR David Hanrahan, is for American business leaders to “step up and offer paid parental leave -- for all parents -- at least at the FMLA minimum of 12 weeks.”
Hanrahan is right. The state of parental leave in the U.S. does suck. The United States is supposed to be a global economic leader, yet when it comes to paid maternity leave and paternity leave, we’re at the bottom of the heap – one of just three countries not to provide financial benefits to women during maternity leave. (Oman and Papua New Guinea being the other countries.)
As it stands now, the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave and job protection for mothers and fathers around the birth of a child. But FMLA only covers organizations with 50 or more employees. Three states -- California, New Jersey and Rhode Island -- have state programs guaranteeing paid leave to all new parents.
Only 11 percent of American workers had access to paid family leave in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So without federal legislation, it falls to businesses to pick up the slack when it comes to supporting new parents. .
The thing is, we should be a leader on parental leave. And we can get there.
At the White House Summit on Working Families this June, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said, “We live in a Modern Family society, but our policies are stuck in Leave It to Beaver mentality.” In the months since, Perez and the Department of Labor have launched a #LeadOnLeave social campaign, saying that change hasn’t arrived in Washington, but momentum is grown.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-NY, has sponsored the Family and Medical Insurance, or FAMILY Act, proposing the creation of a self-sufficient paid leave program through an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration.
In his piece for Huffington Post, Hanrahan explains Change.org decision to #ChangeLeave through the lens of tech companies offering generous parental leave benefits amid inaction on the legislative level.
“We firmly believed that an inclusive and equal policy for paid parental leave would enable a more successful company,” Hanrahan wrote. “One that tangibly supported families.”
They’re not alone in that thought process. With talent wars waging, leading employers are looking to family-friendly benefits as a way to attract and retain talent. Lists of Best Places to Work, which provide more than two-times the stock market returns and experience 65 percent less turnover than peers, are filled with employers that provide generous parental leave policies for new moms and dads.
Learn more about How Companies Are Supporting Working Parents
And there are plenty of business benefits to offering paid parental leave, including building loyalty, enhancing productivity, empowering women, strengthening teams, reducing turnover and attracting new talent. Not to mention the benefits to the families.
It’s 2014. Family dynamics have changed, and so has the way that we work. But still, about 20 percent of new moms quit their jobs around the birth of a child.
It’s time that we start doing a better job of supporting our working families. It’s good for business, and it starts with paid parental leave.
In his role as VP of Global Workplace Solutions, Chris Duchesne oversees Care.com's suite of services offered to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. Under his leadership, the program has grown to serve 150 organizations representing more than 600,000 employees.