The United States is well behind other developed countries in offering substantial family leave policies to employees.
In the last few months, a number of high-profile companies have announced improvements in their paid family leave programs, including some which offer extended time off for new fathers.
Most notably, Netflix, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson have announced extensions or new plans for new parents or those who have some other need to temporarily leave the workforce due to family issues.
This is being done in response to continued comparisons to conditions for workers in other developed countries. The United States is the only major developed country that does not have a federal regulation for paid parental leave. “There is no federally required paid leave of any kind,’’ said Ell Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, an advocacy group for family leave regulations.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13 percent of U.S. workers have contractual family leave available to them. On Labor Day 2015, President Barack Obama issued an executive order to give workers with federal contracts paid sick leave each year.
The appeal among the big companies to move to the forefront of the issue is that they are having trouble finding and then holding on to valued employees. But this is only true for those firms at the top of the food chain in their particular industries. Elsewhere, even managers who work for companies with family leave plans will discourage the use of the time agreed to in order to see the company’s work get done in a timely fashion.
Among those companies with expanded family leave programs, there is concern that there is a disparity regarding paid leave for high level and low level jobs. National Public Radio noted that at Netflix, its year-long parental leave policy applies only to employees in its digital division and not to those in the DVD distribution centers.
Still, the reasons for extending family leave are clear. For companies in businesses dealing with a competition for talented employees, family leave benefits are a recruitment tool.
“Right now, more than ever, we are competing with different industries,’’ said Nestle chief people officer Judy Cascapera. “We are right next to Silicon Valley in California and we see a lot of employees now coming back and forth, or being poached by other industries.” In response, Nestlé doubled its paid leave for new parents and extended that coverage to all of its employees worldwide.
Meanwhile, family leave advocated s are asking companies to be vigilant in regards to how employees who take family leave are treated upon their return. There are concerns that some managers will suggest to employees that they take as little time as possible of their allotted family leave time in order to remain in position for promotions or other company benefits related to time on the job or dedication to the company.
In addressing Obama’s executive order for family leave for federal contract workers, White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett explained the thinking to Yahoo! Parenting:
“According to the Council of Economic Advisers, we are about $2 trillion richer as a country because more women are working, and working more hours, since 1970,’’ Jarrett said. “But we are still not fielding our full team. Paid leave and other working families policies help more Americans stay in the workforce and continue growing our economy.
“Even though 60 percent of our country’s workers are eligible under the Family and Medical Leave Act to take unpaid leave for childbirth or serious illnesses, many are low and middle-income workers who simply cannot afford to lose their pay to stay home, or risk losing their job.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.