Becoming a parent is one of the biggest life changing events in life. Caring for a new person, figuring out the new dynamic of the family, finding the right balance between personal and professional lives, making choices that will impact your baby’s life significantly. All new challenges that might be overwhelming, especially when welcoming the first child. Getting support is critical: family, friends, institutions may be helpful - and so are employers!
Parental leave plays a tremendous role in how new parents are able to handle the first months with their newborns and how smooth or challenging going back to work and giving the best of themselves in their work will be.
The average paid maternity leave in countries part of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is 18 weeks. The U.S. is the only member of the OECD that doesn’t offer mandatory paid maternity leave.
The federal law only requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave, resulting in the fact that only 25% of women takes nine weeks or longer of maternity leave, paid or unpaid. It is mainly up to each company to decide how to support their employees becoming new parents. Helping them be physically, mentaly and logistically ready to come back to work might not only prevent dreadful consequences such as resignation, accident, or depression but also promote employees’ engagement and loyalty toward the company.
Many companies realized that employees’ expectations have changed significantly over the past few years. An attractive salary and a good amount of vacation days are not the only elements employees are looking for anymore. Work flexibility, inspiring corporate values, generous parental benefits are all elements becoming more and more important to recruit and retain talents.
Parental benefits may take very different forms, and it is up to each company to define its policy:
- Paid parental leave About 40% of private companies in the U.S. offer paid maternity leave today. Companies already offering paid time off tend to expand it for birth moms and primary caregivers going from 8 to 12 or 16 weeks. They also usually offer bonding time off for fathers, partners and adoptive parents.
- Taxable stipend Companies such as The Gates foundation offer a taxable stipend on a parent's return to work, to help with child care costs and other family needs.
- Ramp up / down policy Law firm Schiff Hardin (ArentFox Schiff LLP) reduces working hours for expectant parents by 20 percent during the month before and after their parental leave, with no reduction in salary. The firm also provides a "mindful return" online course that helps parents successfully transition back to work after taking leave
- Breast milk shipment When employees are asked to travel, certain companies like Noodles & Company offer their employees a service that helps nursing mothers store and ship breast milk when they travel for work.
- Adoption assistance Some companies (like Netflix, Etsy & Trustify) also offer reimbursement for adoption expenses as part of their parental benefits.
- Custom Gift Boxes As part of its employee engagement program, PlumTree offers companies custom gift boxes to show their support to employees becoming parents. In addition to gifting high quality products celebrating the new baby, PlumTree offers companies a new communication channel promoting a tight-knit work environment.