Updated: Sep 16, 2020
August is National Breastfeeding Month so it’s an ideal time to raise a topic that’s often in the news: Paid Parental Leave benefits for employees. The United States is the only developed country without a federal policy on parental leave, so employees in the U.S. have vastly different experiences based upon their state government and employer at the time they have a child. Sadly, as of 2020 only the following few states in the U.S. have instituted laws regarding paid leave: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington D.C. A few more states – Massachusetts, Oregon and Connecticut – have passed legislation and will begin mandating benefits over the next few years. Until all states or the federal government pass legislation, a working parent’s experience will largely be defined by the benefit policies of their employer.
Americans Value Parenthood
Americans want to work for companies that value parenthood so they don’t feel they have to choose between their career and their family. In fact, among millennials, 60% said that being a parent is extremely important to their overall identity.1 Workers are trying to balance career, childcare and other personal responsibilities, and many new parents are overwhelmed. This is even more challenging in a world where societies are adjusting to life during a pandemic, and employees may worry about job security if they try and take time off while layoffs and furloughs are a common occurrence. This makes it critically important for businesses to continue taking a leadership position in support of families by expanding their parental benefits.
Americans are voicing their support for paid leave, too. A Pew poll of 6,000 Americans found that 82% said mothers should have paid leave following birth or adoption, and 69% said fathers should have the same benefit. This is not only the right thing to do to support growing families in our country, but it is essential if we are going to address the gender inequality gaps we face by forcing women to bear the career impacts of new parenthood alone. Only by offering equal parental leave for both men and women, and encouraging all employees to use this benefit, do we negate the issue of women’s careers being penalized for taking leave for the birth of a child.
Medela Announces Expansion of Parental Leave Policy
Medela recently announced the global expansion of its Corporate Social Responsibility Program, Medela Cares, which includes increasing its parental paid leave benefits. Effective this year, all Medela U.S. employees, regardless of hourly status and gender, became eligible for 16 weeks of fully paid leave with the birth or adoption of a child.
As leaders in supporting working parents who want both a career and a family, Medela has prioritized the expansion of their parental leave benefits out of their firm belief that giving parents sufficient bonding time with a new child enables them to be more successful as a parent and as an employee. Paid leave policies help to allow parents to develop the critical bond with their new child, and also supports the establishment of good breastfeeding habits, by ensuring parents are not worrying about a source of income during this time of significant adjustment.
Medela is proud to join leading companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, Netflix, KPMG, Johnson & Johnson, Deloitte, and others that have also chosen to support working parents by expanding parental benefits!
Employers are learning that offering paid leave is a key differentiator when it comes to attracting talent, and having a robust set of “family-friendly” policies in place can also affect retention and engagement of existing talent. The ability to take paid or unpaid leave has important implications for both families and employees, especially for new mothers and fathers. In fact, there is increasing evidence that having access to maternity leave increases the likelihood that mothers return to work and continue progressing in their careers.2
Making Return to Work More Successful
In addition to extended paid leave, many leading companies are offering robust return-to-work benefits – such as our New Moms’ Healthy Returns program – to help new parents ease the transition back after parental leave, and to help moms continue to breastfeed their child if they so choose. Although only 2% of women plan to leave the workforce to focus on family3 nearly 43% of new moms end up leaving the workforce within 3 months of childbirth.4 Employers are realizing that supporting working parents throughout the entire parenting journey is key to their success. Offering end-to-end benefits, from paid leave and supportive return-to-work benefits, to back-up childcare and scheduling flexibility, is critical to being an employer-of-choice today.
Medela is proud to be a company that is investing in working parents, and we know there is more work to be done to ensure we create and champion environments that are inclusive and structured to meet the needs of working moms. We encourage more companies to commit to shaping a family-friendly culture with expanded support for working parents through all stages of parenthood!
1. Pew Research Survey, 2015
2. The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave, The Council of Economic Advisors, 2014
3. McKinsey and Company, Women in the Workforce, 2017
4. Berry et al, CDC, Beckers, Harvard