Paternal Leave Policies Are Vital for Retaining Talent

As millennials rapidly move into the parenting age, companies are scrambling to adjust to their needs accordingly in order to retain the in-demand talent.

The United States maternity leave policies fall far behind the rest of the world, leaving it one out of three countries that do not offer mandatory paid maternity leave. Federal law, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), merely offers 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave under the condition that the employer has 50 or more employees.

38 percent of millennials say they would leave the U.S. for better paid parental leave benefits Click To Tweet

Millennials are valuing paternal programs in line with the importance of competitive pay, benefits, and flexible working hours. A study by EY revealed that 38 percent of millennials say they would leave the United States for better paid parental leave benefits.

Over the past few years many major companies have taken the hint by expanding their paternity leave programs. Netflix breaks the mold by offering employees unlimited paid paternal leave for the first year of their child’s life. Within the first year period, parents can decide to return to work part-time and then have the option to leave again for paid time off until they are ready to come back on a full-time basis. 

In 2016, major technology company Twitter announced a revised paternal leave policy, giving both parents up to 20 weeks of unpaid leave. Twitter’s former VP of diversity and inclusion Jeffrey Siminoff stated, “We want to lead by example and by doing so we can influence the decisions of others.”

Other influential tech companies who have hopped on the bandwagon include, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Etsy.

Gender-Balanced Leave Policies

Companies are also getting smart by setting leave policies that are gender-balanced. Instead of singling out maternity leave to only mothers, they are offering paternity leave, meaning fathers receive equal paid time off. 

Tracy DiNunzio, CEO of the Santa Monica-based technology company Tradesy shared in an interview, “Giving paternity leave is a really important way of supporting women in the workplace, because as long as women’s paid leave is subsidized, and men’s is not, that system sort of insists that it’s the woman who will step out of the workplace to attend to child care needs. And so what our policy says is that you as two parents make the decision about who is the primary caregiver and how that works.”

When Google extended its paid maternity leave policy, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped by a staggering 50 percent.

Tradesy has a paternal leave policy that offers parents 12 weeks paid leave with the option of an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Startups, having fewer employees and less revenue than most well—established companies, may find it challenging to match the amount of paid leave offered when tailor—making competitive paternal leave policies. These smaller businesses are feeling the pressure to create solutions to offer adequate programs in order to retain top talent. This content marketing agency went above and beyond for one of their lead employees and the outcome unveiled that it is better to create a substantial paternal leave plan rather than lose their talent all together.

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube and former VP of advertising at Google, wrote in the Huffington Post about the importance of the (five) maternity leaves during her time at Google: “Each of those leaves enriched my career and more importantly, enriched my life. They left me with the peace of mind, knowing that I could return after spending the time I truly wanted and needed at home with my new baby.”

When Google extended its paid maternity leave policy from 12 to 18 weeks, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped by a staggering 50 percent.

Postpartum in the Workplace

When mothers return back to work postpartum there is still a need for flexibility at the office. It is a necessity for new mothers to have a private space and ample time for lactation.

A 2015 study by the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health found that less than 50 percent of mothers returning to work postpartum had private, designated lactation accommodations and only 59 percent were offered adequate break time.

Mothers returning to work postpartum need flexibility in the office Click To Tweet

For many companies, this goes against the federal law within the Affordable Care Act called the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law which requires businesses with 50 or more employees to provide a private area and reasonable amount of break time for lactation. However, the law only refers to workers that are paid hourly. This law leaves out a plethora of startups and larger companies along with their salary—based employees.

New mothers returning to work have been dissatisfied with having to breast pump in unisex bathrooms, storage rooms, and other uncomfortable and inadequate areas. However, the majority of companies that have upgraded their paternity leave policies are also updating their lactation rooms. Some of these rooms are equipped with outlets, phones, refrigerators for storing milk, comfortable seating, Wi-Fi, and televisions.

The recent era of businesses creating family—friendly, gender-balanced, flexible working environments is new for some organizations, but for major outdoor brand Patagonia this has been a core part of their infrastructure for decades.

For Patagonia, it’s meant 100 percent retention of mothers.

Patagonia has an unprecedented program which includes on-site childcare that has been offered to parents for the past 33 years. As a result, both parents are able to be a part of their children’s growth every day of the week and for Patagonia, it’s meant 100 percent retention of mothers.

Incorporating competitive paternity leave policies that are flexible and gender-balanced is quickly becoming a vital benefit that millennials are placing as a high priority when looking at what companies they want to work for. Regardless of the current size or revenue stream of your company, investing in your employees and their families will result in retaining your valued team members even if that means they’ll be out of the office for an extended period of time while they grow their family.

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