· 4 min read
Parental leave is anything but a vacation—unless you consider constantly changing diapers, being thrown up on, and losing sleep a vacation. Nevertheless, it seems some employers may be starting to treat it as a luxury.
Just 35% of US employers offered parental leave this year, down from a high of 53% in 2020 and up just 1% from 2019, according to SHRM’s June Employee Benefits Survey. Others have reduced the amount of time offered: Hulu, perhaps most notably, cut its leave by 60%, from 20 weeks to eight. Only 17% of American workers have access to paid family leave, per data from advocacy group MomsRising, and only 11 states have paid leave laws. The US is the only wealthy nation that doesn’t guarantee parental leave for its workers, making employer-sponsored benefits critical to financial well-being.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on working parents—particularly working moms—so the rolling back of an already scarce benefit has some HR leaders concerned.
All new parents. “Regardless of the economic climate or status of the pandemic, parents need quality time with their newborn, adopted, and foster children,” wrote Linda Ho, chief people officer at technology company Seismic, in a LinkedIn post. Her company, she said, will continue providing 12 weeks of paid leave for all new parents.
Not the time. “Cutting back on benefits for parents or parents-to-be may mean this critical workforce starts looking for a new role elsewhere. You may also see this from other employees, non-parents, as they start to question the company’s loyalty to their support and well-being,” Katie Cox, VP of people at sales engagement platform Salesloft, wrote in an email to HR Brew.
Bad idea, indeed. “The Great Realization is not over, and working parents, in particular, continue to navigate difficulties such as finding childcare, schooling uncertainty, and subsequent burnout, all while juggling a career. Rolling back parental benefits will only compound these challenges and harm employers who wish to retain and attract great talent,” said Amy Polunsky, director of global benefits at job search site Indeed.
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Employer values are showing. “If you had to pick just one thing about a company to get insight into if they view their employees as more than a cog in a machine, their parental leave policy is a good place to start,” Dustin S., a contract recruiter at oil and gas company Ascent Resources, said in a LinkedIn comment.
Workplace equality. “It is important to call out that reduction of leave disproportionately impacts women in the workforce, a consideration that every company should keep top of mind as they assess their policies moving forward,” Katie Coviello, VP of people and culture at luggage brand Away, commented to HR Brew via email.
Yes but...“We personally are seeing very strong inbound interest from companies who you wouldn’t think would be caring about parental leave, such as warehousing companies, logistics companies, transportation, retailers, as well as restaurants,” Dirk Doebler, CEO of Parento, a company that helps companies develop parental leave policies, told HR Brew. He recommended taking SHRM’s report with a grain of salt, noting more employers participated in 2022 (approximately 3,100) than in 2020 (2,500).
As parents face an uncertain uphill battle, marked by other challenges including the rising price of daycare, Doebler predicts parental leave will remain a constant even as employers look to cut costs. “I don’t see major impacts on it, simply because paid parental leave is [one of] the most desired policies by employees.”—KP
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