Providing paid maternity leave can be good for your business.
It is sad to note that while other countries guarantee between 16 and 39 weeks of paid maternity leave, no such thing exists in the US ? unless you are working for a company that voluntarily offers it.
Maternity Leave in the US: Some Facts and Figures
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which grants up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year, only applies to full-time workers which comprise about half of the American workforce. Those who are working at companies with less than 50 employees are left to fend for themselves. According to the data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey, a measly 12% of US workers were offered paid parental leave in 2013. However, you can expect this figure to go even lower since 7% of businesses of all sizes reported that they are planning to reduce or totally eradicate this benefit within the next 12 months.
At present, only three states (California, New Jersey and Rhode Island) offer paid family and medical leave benefits. These programs are funded by employee-paid payroll taxes and are administered through their respective disability programs. Most companies in the Silicon Valley offer paid maternity leave as do Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs and General Electric. Unfortunately, service workers including sales clerks and waitresses hardly get any benefits.
In 2013, Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation that aims to provide workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave at 66% of their current salary, to be funded by a 0.2% increase in payroll taxes. However, this act has been stalled in Congress for more than a year now.
Should You Offer Paid Maternity Leave to Your Employees?
Most US companies do not offer paid maternity leave to their employees because they tend to focus more on what it would cost them rather than what they would gain in return by providing such benefits to their workers. Some employers are also afraid that their employees would never return to their jobs after giving birth.
According to a review published by the International Labor Association, an agency of the United Nations, providing paid maternity leave benefits will result in lower employee turnover, less absenteeism, and increased productivity among workers. This translates to enhanced profitability and long-term sustainability for your business.
If you really cannot afford to provide paid maternity leave benefits, the least you can do is to do everything you can to improve working conditions for new parents. Consider allowing them to work from home or let them do their jobs outside normal working hours. You can also pool with other local businesses to offer child care to your employees.