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Advantages of Providing Paid Family Leave

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In the United States, 84.3% of women have had a child by age 44, and women make up 46.6% of the labor force. Given these statistics, the importance of parental leave is paramount. So why do so many new parents in the United States feel unsupported by parental leave policies?

Only 21% of workers in the United States have access to paid parental leave, and the average maternity leave, whether paid or unpaid, is just 10 weeks.

One study found:

"In the first month after returning to work, 54.9% of respondents reported feeling depressed for several days or more, and 71.1% reported feeling anxious for several days or more." (Source)

The data shows that employee health is a win for companies (and for moms, who make up nearly half of the workforce). Let’s take a look at the 6 reasons why you should offer paid parental leave in your company.

Why you should offer parental leave

Mental health - the 12 weeks after birth, now commonly referred to as the fourth trimester, is a significant time for parents and their babies. The newborn becomes accustomed to life outside the womb and becomes more dependent on its parents than at any other time in its life. There is feeding, crying and changing around the clock, and being separated from the parents is not ideal for anyone involved.

For the birthing parent, hormones shift dramatically, life has changed intensely and completely, and sleep and personal time are kept to a minimum. It's no surprise that 15% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression.

Healthy employees are more productive and profitable, and offering paid parental leave and extended parental leave policies helps support the mental health and well-being of a large and important portion of your workforce.

Gender equality - at IceHrm we focus on creating unbiased, inclusive workplaces for employees. We know that families, like workforces, don't all look the same (nor should they look the same).

Parental leave support allows the primary caregiver (regardless of gender) to take the time they need to care for their young child. No matter how you look at it, offering parental leave promotes gender equality in the world of work.

It is primarily women who take time off after starting a family, and robust parental leave policies support half of the workforce in returning to their role at a time that is healthy for them and their family - while also offering another caregiver the opportunity to to take time off if it makes sense for their family.

Retention - an estimated 43% of highly qualified women leave the workforce after becoming mothers. This statistic says a lot about how parents are supported after they return to work, but also about whether they are encouraged to return at the right time and for the right reasons.

Newborn parents who do not have access to extended paid paternity or maternity leave are likely to return too soon, only to then not cope and quit, or they may not return at all because the decision to have a child is conscious a decision to give up work completely.

Employee retention is a cost-saving factor for every HR team. A solid parental leave policy can help reduce hiring costs in the long term.

Life Balance - Work-life balance has been a buzzword since it was coined in the 1980s, and in 2023, 60% of workers feel they have achieved work-life balance. Providing new parents with paid time off and job security helps us all strive for work-life balance and supports the importance of the first few months with a new child.

It's the right thing to do - pretty much every person you talk to will admit that having a baby isn't easy. We all know about the sleepless nights and emotional roller coaster, not to mention the real physical toll on the body.

It should come as no surprise that if you care about your employees (and you should, if not for your karma, at least for your bottom line), offering parental leave policies is the right thing to do.

Did you know that the CDC recommends that babies be fed exclusively breast milk for the first six months of life (if possible) and that they continue to receive breast milk for one to two years? Encouraging (or forcing) breastfeeding mothers to return to work within a few weeks puts undue pressure on them to feed their children satisfactorily. It shouldn't be surprising (but it is) that countries like Sweden provide up to 240 days of paid paternity leave for each parent (source).

Employer Branding - Employer branding is your reputation among current and potential employees.

Studies show that 86% of people would not work for a company that has a bad reputation among former employees. An expanded parental leave policy helps strengthen your employer branding by demonstrating your employer's care, consideration and common sense. For more information on this topic, see my previous article Why Employee Benefits Are Important for Employer Branding.

Below are some legal provisions regarding parental leave in the United States:

The Family & Medical Leave Act ensures that eligible employees receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth and adoption of a child, as well as other situations in which an employee needs time off due to their own illness or to care for a relative. Eligible employees are those who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months (around 24 hours per week) and work for an eligible employer with at least 50 employees.

Sick leave vs. maternity leave - what's the difference? Some companies, states, and cities have laws that require employees to have paid sick leave for short-term illnesses, preventive care, and care. There is no legal obligation to pay for maternity or paternity leave, although the parent's job is protected during the period in question.

The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act provides paid leave to 2 million federal employees. The law does not provide additional leave, but it does protect new parents' paychecks and their jobs.

The 12-week commitment states that every eligible employee who takes paid paternity leave commits to working for their employer for at least 12 weeks after the leave ends. Employees must sign an appropriate contract to be entitled to paid leave.

If your company employs fewer than 50 people, it is not required to provide parental leave.

Companies are required to provide all employees with up to 40 hours of sick leave per year. If this limit is exceeded, your workplace is unprotected.

At one week of age, infants can only see about eight centimeters, they recognize their mother's scent before birth, and they are biologically and genetically programmed to connect with their parents through their sense of smell. This requires closeness.

It can take months to fully recover from pregnancy and birth (source).

One in four women in the US returns to work within 2 weeks of giving birth.

Offering paid parental leave isn't just about legal compliance; it's about supporting mental health, gender equality, and retention. IceHrm helps companies navigate these challenges.

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