The Majority of the Top Employers in the United States Still Do Not Offer Family Leave Policies
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The Majority of the Top Employers in the United States Still Do Not Offer Family Leave Policies

Only 27 of the 60 largest employers have a formal leave policy

January 27, 2017

Although many major companies have taken significant steps in offering paid family leave in recent years, the majority of the top employers in the United States still do not offer such policies.

A new study by nonprofit advocate group Paid Leave for the United States has found that two-thirds of the largest employers in the country (ranked as such by the number of U.S. employees they have) either do not have a paid leave policy or refused to disclose it, writes FastCompany.

Of the 60 employers surveyed, only 27 confirmed having a formal leave policy in place, and only five had policies offering equal leave for both fathers and mothers as well as adoptive parents. Amazon, Bank of America, Deloitte, and EY offer the most extensive policies, including 16 weeks or more of fully-paid parental leave for mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents. Coca-Cola recently revised its policy to be gender neutral, a change that will affect roughly 40,000 U.S. employees, while others, such as Starbucks, offer maternity leave only.

More than 100 million employees around the United States do not have access to paid family leave, and one out of every four new mothers returns to work only 10 days after giving birth. Only 13 percent of employees working in the private sector can get paid family leave, a number that drops to six percent for low-wage employees.

The study also found that such low-wage workers are often not included at all in family leave policies even though it is often they who need the financial support most of all. For instance, Walmart, the biggest employer in the U.S. , provides paid leave to salaried employees, but does not provide it to hourly workers.

A previous study performed by the Center for Economic and Policy Research discovered that 89 percent of California business owners reported either outright positive or at least no negative impacts on productivity after that state guaranteed six weeks' worth of paid leave for new mothers. Ninety-three percent agreed that it had either a positive or no negative affect on turnover, and 99 percent said the same regarding employee morale. And policies for parental leave can also help level the playing field for new moms and dads as well as letting employees return to work feeling less stressed and better rested, results that are better for the employer in the long term.

"The several months it would take to find a replacement, along with the cost of manpower to recruit and interview, heavily outweighs the cost of providing this benefit," said ZestFinance Chief People Officer Sonya Merrill.

The United States and Papua New Guinea are the only industrialized nations in the world that still do not offer any type of guaranteed paid leave, a crucial focus for both parties' candidates during the 2016 presidential election. President Trump proposed a policy offering six weeks of paid maternity leave to new mothers whose employers do not provide such coverage; however, some experts believe that it will be the employers that set the social policy standards in such a divided political landscape.

"What's likely to happen in 2017, as more and more companies go down that path of setting what that standard is, it will set a de facto social policy," said Brian Kropp, the human resources practice leader for CEB. He explained that many people no longer hope that the government will intervene to expand family leave policies across the nation. Instead, they now believe that private companies will make the decisions.

"That will have a bigger impact on social policy than what government can accomplish in a dysfunctional Washington," he said.

However, given that most of the biggest companies in the country either do not offer leave, have unbalanced policies, or would not disclose their policies publicly, it is hard to believe that the private sector will move any faster to solve the problem.