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Is Parental Leave In America Actually Getting Worse?
Samantha Samel

We’ve written a lot recently about the trend toward improved maternity leave policies in the U.S., and our parental leave tracker shows which companies have joined the race in in the past couple of years.

We don’t doubt that there’s some momentum behind this movement, and we’re pumped to hear companies like Etsy report that their expanded benefits for parents seem to be paying off -- especially because our research has shown a direct correlation between women’s overall job satisfaction and the amount of maternity leave taken.

We also know that more and more companies are beginning to recognize the business case for paid family leave, which is thoroughly outlined in a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group.

But how comprehensive has the movement really been? A new survey conducted by the Families and Work Institute (FWI), which was released last week by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), concludes that on average, the amount of leave offered to U.S. employees has not improved significantly since 2012.

FWI’s survey, which was conducted between September 2015 and February 2016, analyzed nearly 1,000 U.S. companies with 50 or more employees.  

“While large companies may be trying to one-up each other with flexibility arrangements as they engage in a recruiting and retention battle, the National Study of Employers found that 14.5 weeks is the average maximum amount of maternity leave that U.S. companies offered in 2016—a miniscule increase from 14.2 weeks—and a little more than 11 weeks is the average amount of paternity leave, up slightly from 10.6 weeks,” SHRM explains.

Unlike in nearly all other developed nations, paid parental leave is not guaranteed in the U.S., so it’s disheartening to hear that the movement to offer parents more generous benefits may not be particularly widespread.

Yet this doesn’t discount the efforts numerous employers have taken to better compensate their employees who take leave -- and we’re comforted to know that U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, among others, are fighting hard to pass the FAMILY Act, which would create a gender-neutral paid family and medical leave program for employees, regardless of the size of their employer.

In addition to supporting this proposal, what can we do to turn the trend toward better parental leave into a more sweeping movement? First, we must continue to push for transparency. Because so few companies publicly share the details of their parental leave policies, we crowdsource the information and maintain a maternity leave database (where you can anonymously submit data on your company to make this an even better resource).

Second, we need to continue to recognize companies that are setting a great example by updating their policies (please contact us at [email protected] if you think there’s a company missing from our parental leave tracker!)  

Third, if you find yourself at a company that won’t be compensating you while you’re on leave, get informed. Here are some articles that will help:

Maternity Leave 101: Basic Things You Should Know

How to Negotiate for More Maternity Leave

Maternity Leave Products & Services

Maternity Leave Laws

How To Improve Your Company’s Parental Leave--Like These Women At The Times

5 Things To Do If Your Company Doesn’t Offer Paid Parental Leave


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