The Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible parents to take up to 12 weeks in one year of unpaid leave from work at the time their child is either born or adopted. This gives moms and dads a chance to connect with their new child, establish a family lifestyle and get some sleep while their baby is up at all hours. However, not all parents can afford to take the full time off. What's more, according to Pew Research Center, the U.S. is the only country out of 41 polled that does not require companies to offer any paid leave for parents. This and other factors have led some businesses to consider offering the benefit and parents to ask their lawmakers to fight for it.
But is providing salary during time off a good or bad move for companies? Here's a look at the way the current political climate may affect any rulings:
How paid family leave affects parents
Another Pew study found that the majority (46 percent) of U.S. two-parent households see both parents working full time. As such, having time off of work to spend with a newborn is important. However, not all families can afford to give up income, whether one or both parents wants to stay home. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 13 percent of private industry workers received paid leave. That percentage decreases depending on the industry, and low-income sectors are the least likely to have the benefit.
The most obvious benefit of providing pay across the board is that parents will actually be able to take the time off given to them. The University of California Davis Medical Center notes that infants are programmed to seek bonding with their caregivers, and doing so creates lifelong attachments that facilitate healthy growth. Not only is bonding with mom important, but UC Davis also stresses spending time with dads and siblings. When parents can't afford to take time off of work, they miss out on this step in the child's development.
Many parents choose to purchase short-term disability insurance to cover time off. However, in most cases, they can't collect the money until a year after purchasing the insurance. What's more, certain plans only cover mothers or require a rider.
The state of mandated paid leave
Workers can certainly benefit from paid family leave for both moms and dads, and some legislators are pushing to make it mandated. Paid leave was a hot topic during 2016 election season, and many Americans are looking to the President to see what will happen next.
Trump's program, championed by daughter Ivanka Trump, would provide six weeks of paid leave to biological mothers, including single moms. Critics point out that this would mean adoptive parents, LGBTQ couples and dads would miss out. Others believe requiring paid leave is a burden on businesses. According to The Washington Post, the administration could make changes to the original policy, potentially including dads. What's more, Trump has expressed the possibility of incentivizing companies to provide childcare support.
The chips are still up in the air for now, and individuals and businesses alike should remain abreast of Trump's moves on parental leave. However, this policy, which breaks with traditional Republican stances, could give Americans paid leave for the first time.
Attracting talent with benefits
As talks over health care continue, businesses and human resources professionals can think about voluntary benefits as they relate to parental leave. For now, giving employees access to pay while they're gone is optional and can come in many forms. Voluntary benefits, like insurance that provides a percentage of the employee's salary while they're gone, attracts employees considering a family in the near future. Companies can also provide paid leave on their own.
The downside is that this move costs the business money. However, it can certainly attract and retain talent. Paid leave can be the benefit that makes a person choose your company over another. It may also keep parents around who want another child. Some states, including California, Rhode Island and New Jersey, already have paid family leave insurance programs in effect, and according to Time, those states have seen rewards.