You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

That fantastic parental-leave policy sweeping America? It isn't


Remember the mad rush to offer employees weeks and weeks of paid leave for all new parents? 

Turns out that trend was limited to a certain sector of the American economy. Over the last decade, many companies have instead reduced their leave offerings. 

In recent years, as the labor market has tightened, Google, Netflix, American Express and other elite firms have announced expanded-leave policies, giving more time off to more workers than ever, in a sort of parental leave arms race. 

When Google (now part of Alphabet Inc.) increased its maternity leave to 18 weeks from 12 weeks in 2007, the rate at which new moms left the company fell by 50 percent. Since then, more companies struggling to hire and retain talent have realized that generous, broadly inclusive parental leave policies save money on turnover costs. It's not such bad publicity, either.

Yet many companies have backed away from fully paid policies, an already rare benefit for the average American worker, according to a new, nationally representative survey by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute.

Of 920 U.S. employers with 50 or more employees that offer paid leave, the percentage offering full pay to new parents dropped from 17 to 10 percent between 2005 and 2016, the survey found. 

Among the organizations that do offer leave, the average maximum time off given to new parents dropped from 15.2 weeks to 14.5 weeks.

The new data challenge the perceived rise of flashy, wraparound parental leave policies that offer 16, 20, or even 52 weeks to all new parents at full pay. Most companies are not, in fact, expanding their maternity, paternity, or parental leave offerings. 

Like many workplace benefits, paid parental leave is a story of the haves and the have-nots. While the number of companies offering some pay for new parents has risen from 46 to 58 percent in the past decade, the coverage hasn't come in the form of expanded leave policies, SHRM found. 

Instead, more companies than ever are offering temporary disability insurance, a free benefit for employees which by law has to give birth mothers some paid time off to recover. Of employers providing at least some paid maternity leave, 78 percent fund it through a temporary disability insurance plan, the survey found. 

The problem is, temporary disability has a much narrower scope than parental leave packages. It doesn't cover new fathers, adoptive parents, or women who didn't give birth to a child themselves, and most packages cover only 60 to 75 percent of pay for either six or eight weeks. Some companies make up the difference in pay and time off for new moms to offer full paid leave. 

"We thought there would be an increase in the length of leaves or in offering funds because of all of the name-brand companies that were in the news for doing so," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute. "That wasn't the case."

Despite the recruiting power of a rich parental leave policy, many companies burned by the recession still don't want to spend the money on paid leave. "There is still a wait-and-see view," Galinsky said. "Right now there seems to be more of a pause."

While the economic recovery hasn't expanded paternity leave, legislation has, slowly. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 mandates that employers with 50 or more employees offer at least 12 weeks of unpaid time off to new parents. There's been a lag. In 2005, just 79 percent of companies were in compliance with the requirement. Now it's up to 93 percent.

As for paid leave, there is no federal law in the U.S. requiring companies to offer it to new parents. President Donald Trump did raise the issue last year on the campaign trail. His goal: six weeks of partly paid leave for new moms.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Watch for a fight as Austin reviews who’s paying too much for water
Watch for a fight as Austin reviews who’s paying too much for water

Commercial businesses in Austin are overpaying for their water by nearly $4.4 million this year, while homes and apartments are underpaying to the tune of $2.1 million, according to preliminary numbers in an Austin Water cost of service review. Those customers are paying what they’re being charged. But the rates don’t align with what it...
Austin rally calls for stronger action on climate change
Austin rally calls for stronger action on climate change

As tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C., Seattle, Boston, San Francisco and other U.S. cities to demand action on climate change, a smaller but just as fervent group of protesters gathered at a sister rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol. Organizers of the Austin event — which drew at least 2,000 people, according...
Taylor council candidates agree city needs to attract businesses. jobs
Taylor council candidates agree city needs to attract businesses. jobs

A real estate company owner and a concrete business’ vice president are running against each other for a place on the Taylor City Council. Gary Gola and Dwayne Ariola are competing for an at-large position left vacant by Taylor Mayor Jesse Ancira Jr., who has decided not to seek re-election. The five council members will choose the next mayor...
Lawmakers wary of Russia's ability to plant dirt, fake evidence on their computers
Lawmakers wary of Russia's ability to plant dirt, fake evidence on their computers

In a brief and largely overlooked exchange between Sen. Marco Rubio and America's top spy during a January hearing about Russia's alleged election meddling, the Florida Republican sketched out what he fears could be the next front in the hidden wars of cyberspace.  Could Russian hackers, Rubio asked then-Director of National Intelligence James...
Can Democrats force Republicans' hands on Trump's tax returns? 
Can Democrats force Republicans' hands on Trump's tax returns? 

House Democrats want to force Republicans' hands on President Donald Trump's tax returns — but it remains to be seen how effective posturing can be for the minority.  House Democrats plan to have Massachusetts Rep. Katherine M. Clark introduce legislation requiring Trump to release his tax returns from 2007 to 2016, according to The Washington...
More Stories