What do successful companies like Facebook, Netflix, Google, and Microsoft have in common? They all offer paid time off for employees who are new parents.
It’s not a secret that allowing new parents to spend time with their babies benefits everyone. When Google increased paid leave for new mothers from 12 weeks to 18 weeks in 2007, for example, it saw a 50 percent drop in the rate in which new moms left the company.
YouTube CEO and former Google exec Susan Wojcicki is a huge advocate of paid parental leave. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, she wrote: "Mothers were able to take the time they needed to bond with their babies and return to their jobs feeling confident and ready. And it's much better for Google's bottom line — to avoid costly turnover, and to retain the valued expertise, skills and perspective of our employees who are mothers."
Wojciki was absolutely right. Several studies like this and this support the effectiveness of paid parental leave. Sadly, most people don’t work for companies that offer their employees paid time off to spend with their new born or adopted child.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, companies with 50 or more employees are required to provide new mothers and fathers with 12 weeks of leave. However, the law doesn’t require this leave to be paid leave. This makes the United States the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t mandate paid leave for new parents.
A Standard Bearer?
Some Capitol Hill lawmakers are urging the U.S. to step up its game, starting with the federal government.
The federal government has been the standard bearer when it comes to employment protections against all kinds of discrimination, including discrimination against gender and disabilities. That’s why pay parity between men and women in the government is better than that of the private sector. It's also why disabled veterans prefer working for the government — they tend to face job discrimination in the private sector.
The federal government may be playing catch up with Google and other tech companies on the paid parental leave front, but not for lack of trying.
New Efforts to Push Forward
Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York have recently introduced two bills – one in the House and one in the Senate – to give six weeks of paid leave to federal employees who are new parents. It’s an important step that would undoubtedly win over new parents whose skills and expertise are critical to an efficient and effective government.
“While private companies across the country are beginning to see the benefits of providing paid family leave, the United States is still the only industrial nation in the world without a program that gives working parents the time off and income they need to care for a new child,” said Sen. Schatz. “Our bill will provide federal workers with six weeks of paid leave, making sure no federal employee has to make the impossible choice between caring for their family and keeping their job.”
Rep. Maloney said, “Paid parental leave makes economic sense for families and their employers; studies have shown that workers with paid leave are more likely to return to their jobs, therefore saving companies costs of hiring and training new workers. We also know that early bonding with children is good for their development. Paid family leave makes economic sense, it makes common sense, and it makes sense for American families.”
Co-sponsors of the Senate’s bill are Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Co-sponsors of the House bill are Representatives Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Don Beyer of Virginia, and Jamie Raskin of Maryland.