For decades, paid leave from work was offered to women after delivering a child, but it didn’t apply to all women, and it wasn’t always paid. For a long time, women feared their job wouldn’t be waiting for them when they were ready to return.
But the march of time is forward and toward progress, and while paid maternity leave still isn’t universal, it is more common: a study from the Society of Human Resource Management found recently that more than half of U.S. employers, 55%, now offer paid maternity leave, while nearly half (45%) offer paid paternity leave.
This is still a newer phenomenon, of course, and there might be some confusion as to who’s eligible and how much time can be used.
How much time is available?
For the companies that do offer paid paternity leave, as a form of paid medical time off work, it was found that the average length of leave is about four weeks, while women now receive on average eight weeks of paid maternity leave. Some companies, mostly in the tech sector, are bucking this trend and following the lead of other countries: Netflix offers a full year off, paid, for new mothers and fathers, whether they deliver a child or if they adopt or foster children, and this is available to both full- and part-time employees.
What if my company doesn’t offer paid leave; are there other options?
The federal government does not require paid parental leave, but some states have tried to create programs that would give families a break. The Family and Medical Leave Act, adopted by some states, requires workers to have up to three months (12 weeks) unpaid leave, in which their job is protected for them. They can return earlier than that 12 weeks and have up to a year to take the leave after a family event, including the birth or adoption of a child or taking care of a family member.
Is paternity leave different from maternity leave or other kinds of medical leave?
Maternity leave can start before a woman has a baby, especially if she’s had a difficult pregnancy or requires bed rest. Paternity leave typically doesn’t kick in until the child is born or, in the case of foster parents or adoptions, until the child is placed in the home. Some companies have opted to refer to a spouse, instead of “mother” or “father,” to underscore the availability of this leave to same-sex couples.
Does paternity leave help families?
In addition to having another set of hands around and someone to help provide sleep breaks, having both parents home with a new baby or allowing one parent to be home for a longer stretch of time allows for more bonding with the baby. Research found that mothers are less likely to have health complications and have better mental health if they have a partner home with them after the baby is born and there’s decreased use of antibiotics for the baby in the first six months.
What’s in it for the company?
While being short-handed for a few weeks might cause some initial headaches and grumbling, companies should consider the benefits it receives by supporting new parents: Improved employee retention, decreased turnover, decreased absenteeism, improved morale, less employee stress, and better well-being. Also, people talk — if a company develops a reputation of supporting new parents, word will spread, which can help attract young and talented employees who want to work for a company that supports them and their families during and after working hours.
If you’re ready to start your family or looking for a new job with a company that will provide family support and leave, contact Debbie’s Staffing. We’ve worked with leading companies and can help you find the position and company that will be a good fit for you and your goals. Contact us today, and let’s get started!