Whether caring for an aging parent, welcoming a newborn child or handling family medical situations, life events can create some of the most stressful and demanding challenges in our personal and work lives. For those without employer-provided paid leave, the burden is even heavier. People often need extended periods of time off to cover responsibilities at home, but many are forced to rely on the federal floor of unpaid leave guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act.
High costs are cited as the biggest barrier to paid leave, but now, more than ever, companies risk losing great talent to rivals with more robust policies—here and abroad. In addition, employers struggle with a growing patchwork of state and local leave laws that hinder innovation and add compliance costs. This is why SHRM is advocating for public policies that would provide relief to employers while guaranteeing paid leave and expanded flexibility options for full-time and part-time employees. The issue of paid leave is a hot one—featured during the presidential campaign and poised to be a focus of congressional consideration in 2017.
Last year, more than two dozen large U.S. employers—including American Express, Deloitte, Ernst and Young, Campbell’s, First Data and Etsy—announced they would significantly strengthen paid family leave benefits. Their approaches vary, ranging from extending the time employees can take paid leave to broadening categories of eligible individuals and covered situations. But in all instances, a powerful business case was behind the decision. They believe it is a winning strategy and are promoting it widely to stakeholders and shareholders.
A carefully analyzed and applied family leave benefit can be a differentiator in today’s hyper-competitive talent marketplace. Even medium-sized and small enterprises can offer budget- and family-friendly policies, such as flexible schedules. The important thing is to develop a workplace where an employee’s work-life needs are valued and supported, balanced with the right benefits, rewards and adaptability across an employee’s life cycle.
Paid parental leave and other work-flexible programs are not only about competing or compliance. They are about doing the right thing for the organization and the employee. As HR professionals, it’s up to us to help our organizations grow a culture where both employees and employers win. This is part of the compact to create the 21st Century workplace employees of all ages want—innovative, fair and competitive with other businesses.