Paid Leave for New Dads and Moms: Why Is the U.S. So Far Behind?

Families and Work Institute’s senior vice president Anne Weisberg speaks with a Fox News affiliate in New York about the issue of providing paid leave for new moms and dads in the workplace.

“We are alone in the fact that we don’t pay for either maternity or paternity leave as a matter of national policy,” said Weisberg about the world’s industrialized nations during the interview.

Why should employers care?

Family-Matters-coverIn Family Matters, a briefing by Families and Work Institute sponsored by on the business case for investing in the transition to parenthood, we review the mounting evidence that helping new parents through this transition is good for business because it’s good for families; and we profile leading practices to inspire business leaders to take action.

One such business leader is KPMG. This year, as a result of new parents’ requests, the firm more than doubled its parental leave benefits and now provides up to 12 weeks of 100% paid short-term disability leave plus six weeks of parental leave for primary caregivers at 100% of wage replacement. As Barbara Wankoff, KPMG’s Director of Workplace Solutions explains, “We want to send a clear message to all our expectant parents: we want you back!”

While KPMG management stepped up for their employees, most expectant parents in the U.S. do not have access to paid parental leave, let alone coverage for frozen embryos. More than 20 years since the full implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—the last major piece of legislation to address the issues of new parents—it is time to evaluate what works for both employees and employers with respect to this key point in people’s lives.

The employers we spotlight in our report are realizing parenting issues are of growing importance among their workforces and are making changes to help employees with this transition. Indeed, Chevron, the energy company, found parenting difficulties were among the top five issues employees seek assistance for from the firm’s Employee Assistance Program. And, recently, the company opened an onsite child care center in Houston, Texas, and it filled up quickly, notes Sara Kashima, an advisor for Work-Life Services at Chevron. “One of the findings from the first year of operation,” she adds, “is that fathers are much more involved in decisions around child care than we had anticipated.”

In the end, individuals will have the biggest role in ensuring a smooth transition to parenthood, but how the nation’s employers adapt to the shifting workforce dynamics will also play a key role in ensuring the well-being and productivity of their employees. (Indeed, this at the heart of what we cover in our Family Matters report.)

Let us know how you made the transition to parenthood work for you; and, if you’re an employer, share your experiences in your workplace.

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