Do Businesses Really Value Families?

I find myself usually marching in the same direction as Rex W. Huppke, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, who tackles workplace issues of the day.  Mr. Huppke’s latest submission printed in Section 2 this past Monday, May 7th, 2012, titled, “No Question New Parents Should Get Paid Leave”, is not an exception.  With a bit of his typical cynicism, Huppke contrasts our commonly held value of family being a keystone of a stable and successful civilization with the fact that America is virtually alone in its aversion to paid work leave for new mothers.

It is striking that some organizations out there have funded research at Rutgers University to collect even more overwhelming evidence of the benefits of giving new parents paid time off.  Their recent research concluded that paid parental leave makes for healthier babies, more workers returning to the job after maternity leave, and stronger families.  I guess that the research sponsors felt a need to hit some people over the head with these moot observations.  What caught me off guard is the relative lack of company backing of paid family leave programs.

Mr. Huppke references Bureau of Labor statistics showing that only 11% of private-sector workers and only 17% of public-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer.  What does this say about American business leaders?  Simple, we are hypocrites.  Huppke points out, “we all seem to agree on the importance of families, yet America – unlike more than 170 other countries – doesn’t guarantee paid work leave for new mothers.”

It’s a better business decision to give new parents access to paid leave.  Fact.  Businesses increase the probability of retaining good employees, building loyalty and avoiding the costs of replacement and training.  It also helps those who are most affected by the lack of paid leave; low income parents who have no choice but to continue working in those brief, but vitally important initial weeks of a newborns development to support themselves.

If we business (HRInsights included) owners and leaders value “family” as much as we say we do, then maybe we should have a paid leave policy that reflects it.

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