The United States is notorious for being one of the worst countries for work-life balance. And one reason may be that we’re lagging grossly behind the rest of the world in parental leave policies.
Indeed, we are only one of a handful of countries worldwide that does not guarantee paid maternity leave.
Some larger employers like Facebook and Netflix have made headlines recently with their liberal paid parental leave policies, and part of the reason behind the hype is the many other companies that don't offer family leave options to their employees.
What have other countries caught on to that makes parental leave policies so popular and successful with employees? The answer is obvious. Offering paid parental leave is beneficial to both employees and employers alike, and here are four categories of research to prove it:
1. Parents face workplace stigmas.
It’s not uncommon for working mothers and fathers to anticipate being judged or alienated by managers and peers for taking time off after having a baby. That fear is not ungrounded, either. In fact, the belief that men shouldn’t take paternity leave is so strong that 20 percent of companies required by law to offer paternity leave do not, according to the 2014 National Study of Employers conducted by the Families and Work Institute.
Not only is parental leave a compliance issue for employers, but when employees don’t feel supported by their leaders and peers to take it, job satisfaction and performance suffer.
The benefit: Providing generous paid leave to both mothers and fathers can help break down these stigmas. In a 2015 study of California’s family leave law, men were 46 percent more likely to take time off when their employers offered paid paternity leave. When employees feel supported, they are happier, more productive and more likely to stick around.
2. Employees want work-life balance.
Work-life balance has become a workplace essential, especially for parents. So much so that respondents in a 2015 survey conducted by Virgin Pulse rated work-life balance as the number one way companies can show they care; 40 percent of respondents said they wished their employers cared more about this balance.
Still, many parents may regard "balance" as being unattainable. Among parents surveyed by Pew Research, 56 percent agreed that balancing work and home responsibilities is difficult. Although we traditionally think of women as the ones having to juggle work and home life, men surveyed said they feel this stress as well -- 52 percent of working fathers in the survey said it was difficult to balance work and family, compared to 60 percent of working mothers.
The benefit: Offering more generous paid parental-leave policies shows employees that their companies are committed to supporting their lifestyle and work-life balance. With better balance, employees will feel less stressed and more satisfied with their jobs.
3. Parents need financial support.
Money is especially important to employees when there’s a new addition to the family, but new parents don’t feel that employers acknowledge this priority. In the Virgin Pulse study, financial well-being was the top factor employees wished their employers cared more about. In addition, 22 percent of respondents named financial stability as the key factor impacting their well-being and happiness.
Without paid parental leave, new parents have a more difficult time supporting their families and may be less likely to take the time off that they need. These employees may leave in search of jobs offering the financial support they desire; or a parent may quit altogether, to care for a new child without the hassle.
But when parents are supported by employers with paid parental leave policies, they’re much more likely to stay put. In a 2013 study of California’s family leave law, women said they were much more likely to be working nine to 12 months after giving birth when they were offered paid leave -- instead of quitting while they were pregnant.
The benefit: Paid parental leave helps new parents feel financially supported, reducing their stress and preventing them from looking for opportunities that better fit their new lifestyle.
4. Parental leave breeds engagement.
With more parental leave, employees are happier and healthier. And when that happens, they’re more engaged and committed to their employer.
Although employees may take more time off with better parental leave policies, they will be less likely to take time off once they return to the office. The 2013 study of California’s family leave law found that women offered paid parental leave worked more hours and weeks as their children aged than women not offered paid leave.
In addition, a recent report from Gallup found that employees who were healthy and felt engaged at work were 30 percent less likely to miss work during any month. That seems to indicate that when employees return from parental leave feeling less stressed, they are more committed to the organization and miss fewer workdays.
The benefit: While offering paid parental leave to all employees may seem like a drain on employer resources, it is a surefire way to develop a supportive culture and create engaged and committed employees.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to paid parental leave? Share in the comments below!