Now trending: Paid parental leave

Brian Gifford, PhD, Director of Research for IBI, discusses paid parental leave trends.

On January 18, I attended the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) Paid Parental Leave and LOA Regional Event in San Jose, California. The topic of the day was the emerging trend of adopting paid parental leave policies and how employers are balancing their leave of absence policies with business goals. The event was well attended by employers and service providers and featured some of Silicon Valley’s top employers and leading industry researchers.

As I listened to the research presented by IBI, I was reminded of Sedgwick’s caring countsSM philosophy. IBI’s research revealed that employers are moving toward offering paid parental leave because they want to care for their employees, create family-friendly workplaces and build policies that are in line with prevailing social expectations. These employers care and, as a result, they are confident that offering an enhanced benefit will lead to more committed and loyal employees. Silicon Valley employers have used these policies to win the “war for talent” in a very competitive technology market and early results appear to be positive.

Brian Gifford, PhD, Director of Research for IBI, discussed the emergence of paid parental leave as a corporate priority. Brian opened by showing a map of the world and sharing that the United States is one of the only developed nations to not guarantee paid parental leave for employees. With all of the innovations that American businesses offer, why can’t we lead the charge and support parents in the workplace?

Until recently, research showed that paid parental leave has had limited national attention, yet it seems to remain on the upswing. Tabulating specific major media reports over a seven-year period, the research noted events that provoked and set in motion a more sustained effort to normalize paid parental leave. These events included Yahoo hiring Marissa Mayer as CEO when she was pregnant; the publication of the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO; Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, taking two months off when his child was born; and the important White House Summit on Working Families in 2014. Mix in a thriving NASDAQ market, low unemployment in the tech industry, an imbalance in gender representation in science, technology, engineering and math careers, and changing state and local mandates, and it is no surprise that paid leave is gaining traction. With companies such as Netflix, Adobe, Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify and Paypal announcing expansions to their paid family leave policies, and states and municipalities including New York and San Francisco mandating paid parental leave, many employers find themselves assessing what to do to stay competitive and ahead of the regulatory curve.

Representatives from Intuit, Adobe and Facebook answered questions and offered advice. All of these employers have policies focused on caring. Although the policies vary in scope and scale, they all started by trying to achieve a business goal and balancing new parents’ time off from work with other business imperatives. It seems simple to “do the right thing” and be a company that cares, but the challenges come when it is time to formalize and administer the policies.

Key lessons from the panel and others participating in the research included:

  1. Design the policy for what your business is trying to accomplish
  2. Leverage FMLA and disability experiences to help maintain business performance
  3. Focus on improving return to work experiences

A paid parental leave policy can be a win-win when it comes to employee benefit enhancements. Sedgwick’s absence management platform is designed to help employers administer various types of leave and support employees as they return to work. The key is to ensure that all programs and policies are designed with a primary focus – taking care of the employee. As a husband and father, I believe that employers moving toward paid parental leave will win…because caring counts.

Is your company considering adopting a paid parental leave policy? We are happy to work alongside you and find ways to address your challenges. If you already offer paid parental leave, we would like to hear about the benefits your business is seeing. Please share your comments with us.

Todd J. Squiers, Director, Client Development

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