For many American workers, the subject of paid parental leave is a hot-button issue. The U.S. is one of the only developed countries in the world without a nationwide law that guarantees some form of paid parental leave, yet recent polls show that most Americans—as many as 82 percent of those voting in the recent election—support paid leave for workers.
Given that Americans are clamoring for these policies, more large corporations have begun offering paid parental leave. For example, Netflix® offers new parents unlimited paid leave for one year, while American Express® recently announced it will give employees 20 weeks of parental leave and offer benefits worth up to $35,000 for adoption and surrogacy events, as well as $35,000 for infertility treatments.
Offering benefits such as these has become increasingly important as the composition of today’s workforce changes. Families with dual incomes have become more prevalent, meaning that more than ever, married couples are sharing childcare responsibilities. At the same time, more Gen Xers are faced with caring both for aging parents and young children.
Companies are also realizing the value of paid leave benefits as a tool to attract and retain top talent. As some 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day, companies are competing for skilled workers among Gen Xers and Millennials. To attract these workers, they need to offer benefits that cater to each generation’s needs. For example, recent ADP research found that younger workers favor education-related perks and paid maternity/paternity leave, while Baby Boomers are more interested in employee discounts and wellness.
In addition to enticing and keeping top talent, paid leave can also lead to happier and healthier employees. These policies can help ensure workers take the time needed to recharge their batteries to remain productive and avoid burn-out. That said, it’s important to clearly outline guidelines for employees and to make sure they understand that taking time off will not negatively impact their career advancement.
In the end, when clients ask my advice, I tell them that deciding whether to offer paid leave is more art than science. It’s all about weighing your workforce needs and operational costs, and then making the decision that’s best for you.
Sushma Tripathi is vice president, workforce planning and benefits consulting at ADP.