It’s no secret that I believe that the state of paid leave in America is flat-out abysmal. We are one of only four countries (Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Liberia) in the world that do not have a law addressing the issue.
Sure, the United States has the Family Medical Leave Act (FLMA) but that doesn’t offer any form of paid leave, unless stated otherwise by the company that you work for. When the Rookie was born, having been eligible to take FMLA I looked into our company policy. It was tiered something along the lines of 4 weeks at 80% pay, then the next 4 at 60% and so on until your 12 weeks was up. I was lucky.
Previously, I brought to light our situation when the Rookie was born. I had two weeks of paid leave and my wife had no paid leave what-so-ever. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. There are many private companies (public included) that do not give the parents the needed opportunity to stay home with their newborns.
While many of us are looking to the government to do something, we shouldn’t leave it up to them to enact change. Private companies can start to set the example and say that a strong family unit is important to the growth of their company.
Take Google for example, new mothers get 18 weeks of paid leave. Interestingly enough, the rate at which new mother’s left the company dropped 50%. It doesn’t stop at mothers. Google also increased their paternity leave from 7 weeks to 12. Showing their employees just how important the family is to growing their company.
Since becoming an advocate for Paid Leave, I have had the opportunity to sit in on a roundtable discussion with the Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, and ask questions about where the United States is headed regarding the issue. In our discussion, Perez, said something that I have used in just about every conversation regarding Paid Leave.
“It’s going to take time. FMLA didn’t happen overnight.”
He is right. It won’t happen overnight. It is going to take each one of us to continue to push the companies that we work for to offer some form of paid leave. It doesn’t have to be perfect in the beginning. At least offer something. That is something that the President of Pixar, Ed Catmull, learned early on when he was forming Pixar:
If we are in this for the long haul, we have to take are of ourselves, support healthy habits, and encourage our employees to have fulfilling lives outside of work. Moreover, everyone’s home lives change as they – and their children, if they have them – age. This means creating a culture in which taking maternity or paternity leave is not seen as an impediment to career advancement. That may not sound revolutionary, but at many companies, parents know that taking that leave comes at a cost; a truly committed employee, they are wordlessly told, wants to be at work. That’s not true a Pixar. – from the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
Companies across the nation can take something from this. Just because an employee wants to take leave to be with their newborn child, should not come at a cost.
For many new parents, there are already so many things to stress about between the health of the baby, lack of sleep, and for many, how they are going to be able to afford the baby even with insurance. Offering paid leave is just one area where companies can ease the stress.
Sitting back, expecting the government to fit the bill, is not something that we should wait for. It’s companies like Pixar and Google that will help change paid leave in the United States. It’s parent’s like you and me who will support those companies who have paid leave policies in place that will change paid leave in the United States.