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Supporting New Parents: Why Organizations Should Offer Both Maternity and Paternity Leave


As society continues to evolve and cultural norms change, organizations must adapt their policies and practices to both recruit and retain top talent. In today's competitive job market, prospective and current employees are looking for employers that offer strong family leave benefits to support their work-life priorities. Robust maternity and paternity leave programs have significant organizational, economic, and social impacts that benefit both businesses and society.


Today we will explore the research behind the importance of maternity and paternity leave policies, provide specific examples of successful programs, and offer recommendations for how organizations across industries can strengthen their family leave offerings to attract and sustain a high-performing workforce.


Research Foundation for Paid Family Leave

Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects that paid family leave programs have on employee engagement, retention, well-being, and productivity. Paid leave has also been shown to have broader social and economic benefits. Some key findings from the research include:


  • Employee retention. Employees are less likely to quit their jobs or consider changing employers when companies offer generous family leave benefits (Reynolds, 2020). Paid leave improves job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

  • Employee health and well-being. Not having adequate time off following the birth or adoption of a child can increase stress levels and negatively impact mental health for both mothers and fathers (Bartel et al., 2019). Paid leave mitigates these risks.

  • Child and family well-being. Babies who spend more time with their parents in the first year tend to be healthier, better developed, and form stronger parent-child bonds. This has lifelong positive effects (Heymann et al., 2019).

  • Gender equality. Expanded family leave for both women and men reduces stigma in the workplace and promotes a more balanced sharing of family responsibilities between parents (Heymann et al., 2013). This helps address the gender pay gap over the long run.

  • Economic impacts. The costs to businesses of employee turnover, lower productivity, and lost revenue due to family leave are largely offset by savings from lower health and social program costs at the community level when parents have paid time off (World Policy Analysis Center, 2020).


This research demonstrates clear organizational and societal advantages to implementing comprehensive paid family leave programs that support both mothers and fathers. Organizations that offer such benefits gain a competitive advantage in attracting top talent.


Paid Family Leave in Practice: Examples From Leading Organizations

Several high-profile companies have successfully implemented progressive paid family leave policies that serve as best practice models for other employers. Below are three illustrative examples across different industries:


  • Microsoft. The technology giant offers 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave to all new parents, regardless of gender or caregiving plans. Employees can take this time during the first 12 months after a child enters the family. Since introducing this expanded program in 2015, Microsoft has experienced increases in employee retention, productivity, engagement, and overall competitive advantage in talent recruitment (Cohn, 2020).

  • Ernst & Young (EY). The international professional services firm provides up to 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave and up to 8 weeks of fully paid paternity leave to support birth or adoptive parents. The company has found these robust benefits have strengthened workforce engagement and diversity while enhancing the organization's reputation as an employer of choice (Benko & Anderson, 2010).

  • State of California government. All state employees receive up to 6 weeks of fully paid disability leave for natural childbirth recovery following the adoption of the Paid Family Leave Act in 2004. In addition, eligible employees can take up to 8 weeks of partially paid time to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child. This groundbreaking legislation has had substantial social impacts like improved infant and maternal health outcomes across the state (Heymann et al., 2019).


These leaders demonstrate that progressive leave policies are operationally and financially feasible across sectors when companies are fully committed to supporting employees' family caregiving needs.


Recommendations for Building Strong Family Leave Programs

Drawing from the research and successful organizational examples, there are several best practices that employers in any industry can adopt to strengthen paid family leave offerings:


  • Provide comprehensive paid leave for both women and men. Eligible employees should receive a minimum of 12 weeks for maternity disability and bonding pay after childbirth or adoption, along with a minimum of 8 weeks for paternity bonding time.

  • Make leave fully paid at a worker's usual base salary. This removes barriers to parents using the leave, especially lower-income families who cannot afford unpaid or partially paid time off.

  • Start leave day one on the job. Eligibility should not require employees to build up leave accrual before taking family leave.

  • Ensure job protection and benefits continuation. Parents should be guaranteed the right to return to their same or equivalent job with no retaliation and retained benefits during their leave period.

  • Educate managers on the program's value. Organizational leaders must clearly communicate the strategic benefits of paid leave in order to gain manager buy-in and foster a supportive environment for parents back at work.

  • Promote equal sharing through "use it or lose it" father provisions. Provide incentives for equitable leave-taking between parents by allocating a portion of parental leave that is forfeited if not taken by the other parent.


These recommendations exemplify how companies can establish best-in-class paid family leave offerings compatible with supporting career growth while fostering workplace inclusion and diversity. When effectively promoted and implemented, such benefits help organizations leverage family-friendly policies into recruitment and retention competitive advantages.


Conclusion

As work-life priorities evolve, businesses must adapt by embracing the critical role of paid parental leave. Implementing comprehensive maternity and paternity leave programs aligned with leading research and practices yields clear organizational rewards as well as communal benefits. Establishing strong family care infrastructure through robust paid leave sends a powerful signal about values of respect, support and inclusion to both current and prospective employees. Leading companies are already discovering the varied advantages in workforce performance, innovation, and prestige that result from prioritizing employee well-being through supportive leave policies. Adopting innovative paid family leave practices allows organizations to be socially progressive while gaining strategic benefits in today's competitive talent landscape.


References

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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