+ What is paid family leave?

Paid family leave allows employees to continue to earn their pay while they take time away from work to: Address a serious health condition (including pregnancy); Care for a family member with a serious health condition; or Care for a newborn, newly-adopted child or newly-placed foster child.

+ How is this different than FMLA?

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.” To understand what eligible employees are entitled to and to understand eligibility, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor page. Through FMLA, eligible employees take unpaid leave, whereas paid family leave is paid.

+ How is paid family leave different from sick days?

Sick days are for when employees need a short absence from work due to illness, whereas paid family leave is for when employees need a longer absence from work due to the birth of a child, their own serious health issue, or to care for an ill family member or loved one.

+ What’s happening in my state?

There is no federal policy for paid family leave. Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have paid family leave laws: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, and the District of Columbia.

California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico also require employers to have short term disability insurance.

+ How will paid leave benefit my company?

Businesses that have implemented better paid leave policies have done so noting the advantages of employee recruitment, retention, and reduced turnover costs. A recent KRC Research study of employees with benefits found that 77 percent of respondents indicated that the amount of parental leave offered by an employer affects their decision when choosing one company over another, and 50 percent said they would rather have more parental leave than a pay raise.

Google provides a strong example of how an improved paid family leave policy can lead to better talent retention: Google’s attrition rate for postpartum women was twice that for other employees – but when Google lengthened maternity leave to five months from three, and changed it from partial pay to full pay, attrition decreased by 50 percent. Additionally, data from the first decade of statewide paid family leave in California show that better retention also applies to workers in low wage jobs – when such workers were able to take paid family leave, 83 percent returned to the same employer (vs. 72 percent who did not have paid family leave).

Read the Boston Consulting Group’s report on how paid family leave is good for business, and Panorama’s report on the five benefits of paid family leave. Also, Harvard Business Review details why paid caregiving leave benefits businesses.

+ How does paid family leave benefit families?

The research clearly shows that the impact of paid leave extends far beyond the workplace, to critical health outcomes for babies and parents. A 2011 study showed that ten additional weeks of paid leave could reduce infant mortality by as much as 10 percent. A study in the Economic Journal found that a mother’s return to full-time work before her child reached 12 weeks resulted in reduced breastfeeding, reduced well-baby care medical visits, and more. Data from the first decade of statewide paid family leave in California reveal that paid family leave doubled the median duration of breastfeeding for all new mothers who used it (from five weeks to 11 weeks). What’s more, women who take longer maternity leaves report an overall improvement in mental health, fewer depressive symptoms, and a reduction in severe depression.

+ How does paid family leave impact gender equity?

A McKinsey study found that women at all levels are underrepresented at U.S. corporations, less likely to advance than men, and experience a widening pay gap as their careers progress. It has been proven that paternity leave helps reduce the wage gap between men and women. The World Economic Forum found that the countries that offer paternity leave are the most successful in closing the wage gap between men and women. Paid paternity leave has profound implications for fathers and for increased equality at home. A Cornell study found that fathers’ participation in household and childcare duties increased 250 percent when they had five weeks of paid paternity leave. And paternity leave has been found to promote gender equality and improve fathers’ satisfaction with the contact they have with their children.

For additional data please see this Medium piece published by former HR lead at Etsy, Juliet Gorman.

+ What makes great leave policy?

Great paid family leave policies are EQUAL. Policies should apply equally to all employees (salaried, hourly, full-time, part-time, and subcontractors) and to all parents (birthing mothers as well as fathers, adoptive, foster, those who become parents via surrogacy and all other parents). Note that a great policy does not include outdated distinctions of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ caregiving that serve to perpetuate gender biases at home and in the workplace. Great family caregiving policies include LGBTQ families and other non-traditional families by including chosen family in their benefit.

Great paid family leave policies provide ADEQUATE TIME. Policies should meet the needs of new parents, people who need take time to provide family caregiving, and individuals who need time to address their own serious illness. Twelve weeks of paid parental leave and six weeks of family and medical leave is a minimum in order to meet the needs of employees at these critical times.

Great paid family leave policies are ACCESSIBLE. Policies should be transparent and should be easily accessible for current and prospective employees. Managers should be trained in the policy and be able to explain it accurately to their direct reports. Companies should create a culture in which all employees feel able to use paid family leave fully, and ensure that no employee fears retaliation if and when taking leave.

+ How do I estimate the cost of paid family leave policy?

PL+US has developed a calculator to help you begin estimating how much a paid family leave policy would cost your workplace, factoring in both direct and indirect costs, as well as direct and indirect savings.

Additional resources:

+ How do I find out what competitors offer?

Knowing what other companies offer their employees, whether within your same industry or geographic region, is helpful for developing a competitive paid leave policy. You can find policies in a few ways:

Web search: Many companies publicly post their paid family leave policy on their websites.

Call them: Depending on the relationship, you or someone in your HR department can simply call competitors to ask what they offer.

Open source websites: Fairy God Boss and Glassdoor.

+ What if my company operates outside the U.S.?

If your company has employees outside the U.S., those employees likely already receive a paid family leave benefit of some kind. The U.S. is the only industrialized country without national paid family leave policy. The benefits available to employees in other countries can provide a good guide for what to propose as a policy for your U.S. employees.

+ What if my company offers maternity leave already?

Paid family leave should be accessible to all employees, not just people who give birth. This means offering leave to families that are LGBTQ, adoptive parents, fathers, and to working people in all parts of the company, not just for the corporate headquarters or salaried employees. While companies commonly provide specific (6-8 weeks) recovery time for employees who give birth, it is a best practice for additional bonding leave to be equal for all new parents.

+ What happens when someone takes leave: how do we cover their work?

Most companies already know the answer to this question because they account for employee absences every day. Companies that have implemented paid family leave policies report that putting the policy into place helped them create more robust and sustainable businesses by forcing a look at their overall workforce and training. Best practices for managing work during absences include finding where key business functions and responsibilities are being managed by a single employee and cross-training to ensure stability, and treating these planned absences as a key growth opportunity for employees ready to grow their skills and responsibility.

+ Examples of quality policies

PL+US policy for PL+US employees

Bank of America