Tag: maternity leave

So What! Yahoo Hires Pregnant CEO!

Goodness gracious.  The media flurry around the hiring of Marissa Mayer by Yahoo, the fact that she’s a she, and that she is also pregnant surely belies the lingering issue that remains inside C-Suite America – where are the women?  Fair enough.  Now there is a big brouhaha from many sides because Mayer told Fortune that she would work through her short maternity leave, which will only last a few weeks.  Bottom line.  It’s her choice.

What does not go unnoticed is the large number of expectant parents who DO NOT have a choice.  This is the vast population of workers who are not covered by FMLA; those who work at small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.  Choosing unemployment is a laughable option, as few of these working parents have the necessary economic reserves.  And, herein lies the conundrum.

Not surprisingly, there are health benefits for employees and their families associated with paid leave programs.

In “Policy Matters:  Public Policy, Paid Leave for New Parents, and Economic Security for U.S. Workers,” Linda Houser and Thomas P. Vartanian found that paid family leave reduces the likelihood of premature birth, improves breastfeeding establishment and duration and increases the chances of obtaining well baby care, in addition to improving the health of both mothers and children and decreasing health care costs in the longer term.  “Access to paid leave has also been linked to families’ economic security and independence,” the authors observed.

Valerie Young, a contributor to Woman in Washington, writes that “access to paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child reduces the likelihood that a family will be forced to resort to public support or food stamps.”  High-ranking officials like Mayer have the edge on middle and lower-income families, Young adds, because their employers often offer paid parental leave.  That’s why establishing a national paid leave policy is so important.

Note:  Mayer is lucky; she lives in California, one of two states (New Jersey being the other) in the United States that has a paid family leave program where employees may take up to six weeks of paid leave through a program financed entirely through small payroll tax contributions.

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.