The Case for Paid Maternity Leave

Did you know?  [tweetthis]Among global rankings of maternity leave programs, the US sits very near the bottom.[/tweetthis]Nestled among the ranks of countries like Swaziland, Lesotho and Papua New Guinea, we are one of the few countries in the world that do not have paid maternity leave. From a new mother’s standpoint, it seems incongruent to the costs of having a new baby, the critical bonding time, and the need for stable finances during this hectic time.

From a business standpoint, there are some major advantages to joining the ranks of the 16% of US companies that do offer paid maternity leave. Some of these include employee retention, higher morale, and improved productivity. Don’t believe us? When Google increased maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks, the rate of women leaving the company after leave fell by 50%! Think about the money you could save in recruiting!! Think about the new father who opted to work through his paternity leave and now has the stress of providing for mother and child, with only one income. The stress of this situation could have serious effects on work productivity.

Perhaps the greatest case for paid leave is the three states that currently have paid leave programs – California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. California’s program has been operational for more than 10 years and a 2011 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 91% of employers said paid leave either boosted or had no effect on their profits.

Paid leave has also aided in reducing the Gender wage gap. A 2012 study by Rutgers found that “Women who report leaves of 30 or more days are 54% more likely to report wage increases in the year following the child’s birth than are women who take no leave at all.” So while key industries are actively working to recruit women who have left to workforce to raise their family, wouldn’t your business be ahead of the curve, if you could retain these women after pregnancy?

On a much smaller business scale, many businesses and corporations fought hard to keep paid sick leave laws from being passed out of fear that it would be too costly. Today, there are 3 states and 18 cities with Paid Sick Leave laws and the effects of legally mandated time have had little to no effect on profit margins.

Yet, from the business standpoint the idea of mandatory paid sick leave is definitely scary, but we also know that all changes hold a certain amount of risk. Wouldn’t it be great to be one of the businesses that has a reputation for supporting women by being among the first to offer the benefit of paid maternity leave? Offering employees security and benefits can often lead to employee loyalty, referrals, and other morale building effects on the company culture as a whole. While this may be a topic that not all businesses support, it is something to consider as we move into the second half of 2015 and look at the new mandates for benefits in terms of sick leave and health care. Maybe maternity and paternity leave will not be too far off. Time will tell!