[Employer] Take More Than Baby Steps Parental Leave Blog

By Luke Anderson, marketing manager at StayWell

One of the most nerve-racking times in my life was when my wife and I were leaving the hospital after having our first child. The hospital staff had been so helpful during our stay that the thought of going home on our own was overwhelming. I spent the walk to our car rattling off endless new fatherhood questions: What if he doesn’t stop crying? Are we feeding him too much? How long should we let him sleep? What does that new noise mean?

Thankfully, I had something that too few other American dads have—parental leave. I got three paid weeks off from work to attempt to answer those daily questions, fully support my wife, and spend quality bonding time with the new addition to our family.

Unfortunately, only about 30% of companies in the United States offer paid parental leave to employees, according to SHRM’s 2019 Employee Benefits survey. Dads who don’t get paid leave and want time off often have to navigate the confusion of FMLA or use their own PTO.

3 reasons why paid parental leave benefits moms, dads, babies, and companies

Paid parental leave appears to be a trend that is moving—albeit slowly—in the right direction. Here’s why you may want to take a closer look at your organization’s parental leave policy.

1. Be viewed as more progressive and ahead of the game

While paid paternal leave popularity is rising, the United States remains one of the only developed countries with no national leave law. Some states have legislation in place but, for the most part, companies essentially choose to offer leave as a perk.

American companies also lag in length of leave. Several countries offer leave measuring in months and even years compared to the days and weeks that Americans typically receive. The global average paid leave for moms is one year and about nine weeks for dads. Korea and Japan even offer a full paid year to dads.

Enhancing your paid leave policy, or creating one altogether, puts you well ahead of many companies that aren’t even offering it. SHRM also reports for organizations that increased benefit offerings in 2018, 72% cited retention and nearly 60% cited attracting new talent as main reasons for doing so. Implementing a generous policy can help with employee satisfaction and create a place where people like to work.

2. Parental leave can make an impact on employee well-being and productivity

Parental leave for employees has many benefits, including:

  • Mental health: Lower chance of postpartum depression
  • Bonding: Time spent with a new baby has lasting effects on baby’s development
  • Economic security: Less worry about finances and planning for unpaid leave
  • Gender equality: Promotes the importance of both parents’ time spent with children
  • Additional time for daily chores: Sounds simple, but having additional time to tackle household chores can help you really enjoy time spent with baby

Employees who come back to work recharged benefit their organizations, too. According to Employee Benefit News (EBN), 71% of employees report increased productivity from paid family and medical leave, and 82% say morale is higher. That also led to higher profitability at nearly two-thirds of companies.

Providing a worthwhile time-off policy—whether for parental leave, sick days, regular PTO, or volunteer time off—encourages greater work-life balance and helps keep employees engaged.

3. Drive change and become a destination culture

Heightened expectations are requiring organizations to emphasize parental leave more in recruitment and retention efforts. Nearly 90% of men view parental leave as an important condition of employment. Deliotte’s parental leave survey found more than 75% of respondents said leave options could sway their decision when choosing employers. In addition, 80% said their workplace would be happier if additional parental leave was an option.

Even if companies have a leave policy in place, there are a variety of reasons why dads don’t take advantage of the benefit. According to Talking Talent:

  • 63% of men believe taking extended parental leave would be detrimental to their careers
  • Nearly 75% of men said they’d have taken a longer parental leave if they’d seen co-workers do so
  • More than half said they’d have treated leave differently with more manager support
  • 56% of parents reported a significant gap between their organization’s stated support for leave and the begrudging attitudes they encountered when they requested time off

It’s up to organizations themselves to create a culture where dads (and moms) aren’t judged for taking leave, don’t feel pressured to come back before their leave ends, or fear being passed up for future promotion opportunities.

Make it a priority to look at your parental leave policy early in the new year. The paid three weeks I was given was precious time I used to bond with my son and be there for my wife without worrying about planning financially for unpaid days off.

Learn more about how StayWell works to create a destination culture for employees.