Not only are Millennials currently the largest generation in the workforce, but Gen Z is the biggest generation on the planet, comprising 32% of the global population. That’s a lot of potential talent looking for workplaces offering benefits in sync with their lifestyles. And since these two generations are in their prime childbearing years, you can be sure they’re checking out your parental leave policy when deciding whether to work for you.
Millennials and Gen Zers are having children later in life. According to childcare marketplace Winnie.com, the younger generations feel by waiting to have children, they get more time to enjoy adulthood and become more established in their careers. The result is they have children when they’re ready. And, because for them parenthood is a deliberate decision, employees expect their workplaces to accommodate their needs for life/work balance.
Federal laws are lacking
More than a million millennials become new parents every year, according to Pew Research, but the United States remains the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is more than 25 years old and seems sorely lacking in providing equality in the workplace, especially when it comes to being able to care for a newborn.
The FMLA merely provides “certain” employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year—so employees won’t lose their jobs if they choose to stay home to care for a baby, but companies are not required to offer any compensation.
The issue of paid parental leave recently received a boost of attention when MSNBC anchor Katy Tur shared with her audience challenges following childbirth, including an underweight newborn, painful C-section, post-partum exhaustion and more. Tur used her spotlight to call out Congress for the “shameful” lack of federal paid family leave in America.
Although the FMLA was designed to “help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons,” without requiring companies to compensate employees, many workers must return to work earlier than desired to pay their bills.
Currently five states require companies to provide paid parental leave to certain employees.
For example, the 2019 California law called the New Parent Leave Act is for employers with at least 20 employees and enables some workers to take up to 12 weeks leave to take care of a new child (biological, adopted, or foster). There are some stipulations such as how long the employee has worked at the company and how many hours have been worked before the leave. Employers are also required to continue group health coverage during the leave and employees must be able to return them to the same jobs they had before they left. You can read more about California's short-term disability and paid leave programs.
The demand is real
While employees of any generation would consider switching jobs for better benefits, millennials and Gen Z want better parental leave policies for both genders and frequently, for non-traditional families. According to Glassdoor, it’s important for company benefits to reflect how inclusive the business is to all family scenarios.
Companies should consider not only providing paid parental leave for the traditional male/female partnership but also family and medical leave to care for domestic partners as well as the children of a domestic partner, regardless of biological status.
Perhaps because businesses understand providing paid maternity and paternity leave will help them attract and retain talent, 40% of companies in the U.S. now offer paid parental leave compared to only 25% in 2015. Big companies like NBC where Tur works, Microsoft and Bank of America offer generous parental leave policies.
Small Business Tips for Paid Parental Leave
But, it’s hard for a smaller company to offer similar benefits. One way you can possibly “pay” for parental leave is as an extension of your state’s temporary disability insurance program. Small percentages of money are withdrawn from every employee’s paycheck and the leave is fully funded by the workers. Usually, the paid family leave insurance fund pays about two-thirds of the employee’s weekly pay. The benefits of paid parental leave are two-fold. Employees get the support they need to keep their jobs and start a family and employers benefit from workers who are more motivated, more productive, they have greater loyalty.
And call your Congressional representatives to ask for better, federally mandated parental leave policies.