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How Paid Parental Leave Benefits Everyone

Heather Bliss

Heather Bliss


A few months ago, the hashtag #ShowUsYourLeave began appearing on LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms frequented by employers and professionals. The movement quickly went viral.

Within weeks, hundreds of employers had publicly shared their paid family leave policies, countless parents recounted their experiences with paid leave (or lack thereof), and more than 30,000 people signed a petition calling for better parental leave in the United States.

The #ShowUsYourLeave trend is still going strong.

This spring, theSkimm — the media company that launched the movement — unveiled a #ShowUsYourLeave database. The online spreadsheet currently lists the parental leave policies of over 500 American employers.

Several big-name firms have voluntarily disclosed their paid parental leave policies through the #ShowUsYourLeave campaign:

  • Pinterest’s policy includes 20+ weeks global parental leave, 12 weeks paid leave for NICU, 20 weeks adoptive parent leave, and four weeks bereavement leave for pregnancy loss.
  • Estée Lauder’s policy includes 20 weeks of paid parental leave, six weeks of back-to-work flexibility, up to $10,000 reimbursement for adoption, and up to $20,000 per year in fertility benefits.
  • Nestlé’s policy includes 18 weeks fully paid parental leave, flex return options, complete gender neutrality, and financial coverage for infertility treatment and adoption expenses. 

Notably absent, however, are the thousands of employers that don’t offer any kind of paid parental leave.

The U.S. is one of the few countries with no national paid parental leave policy. (Although a handful of states do offer paid family leave.) This leaves employers to decide on their own whether or not to offer paid parental leave. Unfortunately, many employers cannot or choose not to provide paid parental leave.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 23% of civilian workers had access to paid family leave benefits in 2021. TheSkimm launched #ShowUsYourLeave to highlight this very fact.

“This isn’t just a women’s issue or a partisan one,” the company wrote on Instagram. “We need to get loud about the struggles we’re faced with in navigating parenthood and how paid family leave, or lack thereof, has an impact.”

Why Paid Parental Leave Benefits Make Good Business Sense

As the #ShowUsYourLeave database shows, many of the nation’s most successful companies provide some level of paid parental leave. You might be wondering if the time is right to offer paid parental leave benefits at your organization (or expand the benefits you already provide).

There are many good arguments in favor of doing so:

A Branding Boost

There’s a good reason so many employers willingly shared their parental leave policies through #ShowUsYourLeave. Paid parental leave benefits help brand your organization as a family-friendly employer that values your employees’ well-being and work-life balance.

Such an image can help your company attract new employees (especially in today’s ultra-competitive talent market), impress investors, and connect with socially conscious customers.

According to a Deloitte survey, 77% of respondents said the amount of parental leave offered would play into their choice of one employer over another. The head of HR at a small technology firm told the Harvard Business Review that job candidates have turned her down due to a lack of paid family leave and that millennials bring paid leave up “right off the bat.”

Better Retention

A 2020 survey of more than 440,000 working parents employed at more than 1,200 companies found that the companies with the best parental benefits also ranked the highest for employee retention.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Paid parental leave helps parents remain in the workforce, while giving them time to start families and bond with their children. The Center for Women and Work found that women who take paid leave are 93% more likely to still be in the workforce 9 to 12 months after the birth of a child than those who don’t.

Considering the cost of replacing an employee — sometimes up to four times their annual salary — paid family leave benefits can often pay for themselves.

Increased Engagement and Productivity

Giving birth, going through the adoption process, undergoing fertility procedures, and caring for new family members can be all-consuming. Needless to say, even the most dedicated employee would find it hard to concentrate on work while experiencing these life events.

Paid family leave lets your employees focus on family matters and return to work when they’re ready to give it their full attention. Studies of paid leave programs, such as those in New York and California, have found no negative impact on employee productivity. Employers often report productivity gains.

Paid parental leave can also increase engagement among employees who aren’t using the benefit by reassuring them their company has their back. Millennials, especially, appreciate the sense of support. According to an EY generations study:

  • 69% of millennials are more likely to recommend a company that offers flexibility and paid parental leave.
  • 79% of millennials say companies that offer flexibility and paid parental leave make them more engaged and happier.
  • 86% of millennials are less likely to quit a company that offers flexibility and paid parental leave.

Paid Parental Leave: A Crucial Benefit in the Modern Workplace

As we’ve established, there are very few — if any — downsides to offering paid parental leave to your employees.

Your company benefits by attracting talent, burnishing your reputation as a family-friendly workplace, and potentially increasing engagement and productivity. Your employees benefit from improved work-life balance and reduced stress as they welcome new members into their families.

We can’t predict whether the U.S. will ever join the rest of the world with a national paid parental leave policy. But the evidence is overwhelming that today’s parents and parents-to-be view paid leave as an essential benefit. Paid parental leave is sure to become a standard offering from the country’s most desirable employers.

Are you doing a good job communicating your benefits?

Paid leave matters. Do you have a good policy? If so, the task now is to leverage that policy to boost your employer brand, retain employees, and help them feel more engaged and productive.

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