Most Working Women Want Paid Parental Leave

Every year, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducts a survey assessing the prevalence of specific employer-offered benefits across multiple categories among U.S. organizations. According to the SHRM 2022 Employee Benefits Survey, healthcare was ranked as the most important type of benefit that an organization can offer its workforce, followed by benefits for retirement and leave for new parents. Despite ranking highly, the SHRM reported that the percentage of companies offering paid maternity leave in 2022 declined to 35% from 53% in 2020, while the percentage of companies offering paid paternity leave decreased from 44% to 27% in 2020.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles “eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.” Unfortunately, only about 44% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, which makes the U.S. the only developed country in the world that is without a federal paid parental leave program for all workers.

According to different study conducted by Breeze, up to 74% of working women would deplete their savings if they had to take unpaid maternity leave for 8 weeks. Of the women who participated in the survey, the majority responded that they would prefer paid parental leave over a four-day work week, employer-paid dental insurance, or employer-paid vision insurance.

Offering parents paid leave has been shown to increase productivity, improve employee morale, help employers retain and attract talent, and have a positive impact on social disparities and the health and well-being of employees and their families.

“Paid parental leave can reduce financial stress, allow parents to focus on bonding with their child, and increase gender equality when fathers have more time to participate in childcare duties. All of these positive effects trickle down to benefit the child and the family as a whole,” Ashley Schappell D’Inverno, PhD, a behavioral scientist in the Division of Violence Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explained to the American Psychological Association.

The issue of parental leave is complicated, and the solutions to it are heavily debated. For employees whose companies don’t qualify for FMLA, short-term disability coverage may be able to protect your income from temporary conditions (e.g., pregnancy) that keep you from earning a paycheck. However, it should be noted that short-term disability insurance must be taken out before pregnancy to cover it, or else it may be categorized as a pre-existing condition.

Furthermore, organizations can take steps to support their employees through other methods. For example, companies can provide flexibility regarding hybrid or fully-remote working models, new family stipends or daycare discounts, offering transition-back-to-work schedules, and creating parent employee resource groups.