What the country’s rising birth rate means for parental leave

The US birth rate increased by 6.2% in 2021, as workers got lucky with WFH benefits.
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Remote workers were busy during the pandemic, often logging longer hours while taking fewer vacation days. But, according to a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), they made more time for love.

After a decline in births in 2020, the US experienced a mini baby boom in 2021, when the fertility rate increased by about 6.2%, or 46,000 babies, to 3.67 million, according to the NBER. However, more babies means more employees using parental leave, and that can leave HR scrambling. HR Brew spoke to an organizational planner who explained how HR departments can prepare for an extended leave.

Baby bump. The report refers to the uptick in births as a “bump,” a small boom for fertility rates among those born in the US, which declined from 2.1 to 1.6 overall between 2007 and 2020 in the wake of the Great Recession, according to the paper. Those aged under 25, between 30 and 34, and with a college education experienced the biggest increase in births.

And it wasn’t just remote work that fueled the increase. The paper also pointed to more flexible work schedules and income gains due to pandemic support programs as reasons why Americans may have felt more comfortable having a child in 2021.

Preparing for leave. Smaller businesses are more likely to struggle when someone is out on parental leave, said Kelly Harris Perin, founder of Little Bites Coaching, which helps organizations and employees expecting to navigate parental leave. No matter how challenging preparations may be, she explained that it’s important to consistently communicate to all employees that those who use their parental leave will be supported.

“Offer any support, like any temp person,” she said, “I’ve seen some organizations who promote someone or give someone an extra responsibility for that interim time and compensate them for that.”

Harris Perin added that by providing employees with the support they need while team members are out on parental leave can help boost company culture and morale. “It can go a long way in making sure you’ve got the capacity but also just in making people not feel crappy about having to take on extra work.”—KP

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @Kris10Parisi on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Kristen for her number on Signal.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.