The birth or adoption of a child may be one of the happiest moments in parents' lives. Yet, they aren't given ample time to enjoy the milestone. Many companies and states offer some form of family leave, but most of the time, it's unpaid. To be able to care for the family, parents often have to return to work before they're ready. Paid family leave allows mothers and fathers to spend more time with the new addition to the families while benefiting businesses.
The problems with unpaid leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows up to 12 weeks of time off for the birth or adoption of a child. However, only in three states – California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – is that leave paid. That leaves 47 states in which parents lose part of their salaries for staying home with their children. The FMLA also only applies to companies with more than 50 employees, which covers approximately 60 percent of the workforce, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. That leaves out a large portion of the population.
Many programs also offer a shorter leave for fathers than they do for mothers. What could be several months time off for women may only be a few weeks for men. Paid leave, which is rare across the nation, is especially hard to come by for fathers. When paternity leave isn't offered or is limited, it can be detrimental to not only the child, but the family, the source explained. If fathers aren't around, they may not form close bonds with their children and care responsibilities fall on the mothers.
"When only the birth parent can take paid leave, you put people in a situation where they have to follow traditional gender roles, which doesn't always make sense," Kenneth Matos, senior director of employment research and practice at the Families and Work Institute, told The New York Times. "If the male partner has a more flexible job it doesn't matter, because she is the one who gets the leave. A lot of people are beginning to talk about how these issues need to be looked at as overall family issues, and the decisions need to be made in the context of all of the people involved."
Businesses, families benefit from paid time off
A recent poll conducted by The Times and CBS News reported 80 percent of Americans favor paid time off to take care of new children or ill family members. This would allow parents to stay out of work longer while providing a plethora of benefits. Maternity leave has been shown to lower infant mortality rate, reduce illnesses and hospitalization rates for babies and improve women's health, The Times explained. However, working paid leave into your financial plan could also have several benefits for your business.
When parents don't have access to paid leave to care for their families, they are more likely to quit their jobs altogether, the National Partnership for Women & Families reported. This results in turnover rates that could be damaging to business banking accounts. Paid family leave would improve worker retention so you wouldn't have to worry about filling positions. Because of the high retention rate, productivity may also increase.
Employee satisfaction also improves when they are provided with the benefit. Nearly all employers reported that California's program had resulted in higher worker morale, the source explained. Paid leave allows employees to come back to work when they're ready instead of having to return too soon, which can result in poor quality, lack of focus and increased anxiety. The family leave program can help reduce stress and keep parents from worrying about both their jobs and their child.
Paid family leave will boost your company's reputation, keep your employees happy and potentially help your business in the long run. When money is taken out of the equation, new parents can focus on what matters to them.