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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Johnson

The Dilemma of Parental Leave in the USA: A Guide for Employers

The United States parental leave policy is outdated—it needs to change.




The average maternity leave companies give employees in the United States is a shocking 29 days, as stated by a Great Place To Work. That’s 4 weeks! After giving birth to both my boys, I had brain fog for up to 1 year. I woke up numerous times a night to console the baby and didn’t feel well rested for months. 


But after 4 weeks, new parents are expected to return to work as if nothing happened. In comparison, UNICEF recommends 24 weeks (6 months) as the ideal amount of time new parents should receive off work. Paid leave for mothers and new parents allows them to focus on their child's development with job and financial security. It also allows new mother’s to recover physically and mentally after giving birth.


If you’re an employer, it’s time to ask a new question: Is your parental leave policy ethical and healthy?


Key takeaways:

  • The average maternity leave for new mothers (U.S) is 29 days

  • Upwards of 6 months paid leave is recommended

  • The more you invest in new parents, the more they’ll invest in you



How long is the average maternity leave USA?

In the United States, the average maternity leave is 29 days, a mere 4 weeks. Although, employees might qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.


But that’s unpaid leave! How is a new mother supposed to be present with a newborn without financial stress or job security? And the companies that offer paid leave offer an average of 17 days paid, as mentioned by A Great Place To Work


The lack of paid leave—and leave in general—is causing new parents to go back to work too soon. It’s causing unprecedented stress and is not healthy for the mother or child. And you guessed it… when companies don’t support new mothers, they often leave and find a new job that will support them.


Moms bring various skills to the workplace

Despite paid leave being a rarity at many companies, becoming a mom brings new strengths and skills to the workplace, from patience and empathy to multitasking.


As a mother and the Founder of FitPros, I can confidently say that being a Mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had. In a recent interview with Forbes, I said how pausing to understand a direct report’s need is much easier than convincing your toddler why they can’t eat out of the garbage. 


Mothership is a leadership training ground. A lot of skills new mother’s learn transfer into the world of work. Moms make great employees and even better leaders.


Employers need to be supporting new mothers, not providing below par parental leave policies that force them to return to work too soon. It doesn’t benefit the mother, the child, or the employer.


Why should maternity leave be 6 months or longer?

The recommended maternity leave for new mothers is a minimum of 6 months, but most U.S. companies provide much less. In European countries, such as Sweden, parents get 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. If there are two parents, each can take 240 days leave. Japan offers a full year of paid leave for new fathers. And finally, parents in Finland get 160 days of paid leave each.


Compared to the 29 days of leave in the United States, it puts in perspective just how far behind the country is.


Mothers and parents need to bond with their newborn children. They don’t need the added financial stress, difficulty finding a daycare, and other stresses that come with being a full-time mom.



Why you should offer better paid parental leave?

Supporting new parents as an employer is not only the right thing to do, but it can have many positive benefits for your business. For example, companies who provide excellent parental leave policies are more likely to:


Increase employee retention

My Bump Pay says that offering better parental leave policies can help you increase employee retention, saving as much as 400% of a talented employee's salary to replace them. By investing in your employees, they’re investing in you. Employees are more likely to be loyal, happy, and productive at work once they return from paid leave.


Attract new talent

It’s not just about retaining existing talent, either. Excellent paid parental leave can help you attract new talent. All employees deserve excellent parental leave, and by doing so, you’re more likely to attract new and upcoming talent.


Improve mental health of new mothers 

Happy employees are more productive than unhappy ones. Mothers who are physically and mentally prepared to return to work are more likely to be happy and productive.


Long-term paid maternity leave ensures new mothers return to the world of work fully recovered—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Giving birth is mentally and physically exhausting and takes time to recover from. You can’t rush it. Returning to work too soon can have side effects on all parties, from the mother to the child and your company.


Invest in the mental and physical health of new parents!


Invest in future leaders

Mothers develop new skills such as patience, empathy, and multitasking, which are all qualities that make good leaders. When you invest in new parents, they develop new skills that are invaluable in the world of work.  


The world of work needs more working moms. It’s your job to support them!


Reassess your parental leave policies 

Although it’s not law in the U.S. to provide as extensive parental leave policies as European and Scandinavian countries, the question shouldn’t be what’s the minimum or the most competitive parental leave, but what’s ethical and humane.


Being a Mom, I couldn’t imagine having to rush back to work after giving birth. I was lucky to have such a supportive team. But for a lot of new mothers, their maternity leave is over before they’ve got the stroller through the door.


Employers: it’s time to reassess your parental leave policies. New parents shouldn’t have to worry about job security or how they are going to pay the bills. They should be spending time with their newborn, bonding and recovering after birth.


Excellent paid parental leave is not only the right thing to do, but it has many benefits for your company, as we’ve highlighted in this blog post.


Join FitPros live 

At FitPros, we provide workplace wellbeing solutions and activities to help support your employees' health and happiness. We’re trusted by world-leading companies such as Forbes, Grammarly, Tik Tok, and Discord.


We implement Blue Zone habits into our programs, including daily movement with our fitness classes and yoga sessions, build meaningful relationships with our team building activities, and educate your employees on how to improve their health and happiness with our health talks.


Join our workplace wellness subscription, FitPros Live, for daily content every day. Employees can drop in whenever and you can track employee attendance and engagement to see the real-time effect of our wellness solutions.


Want to learn more? Book a demo today

Author: Lindsay Johnson, CEO and Founder of FitPros




 

FitPros is a turn-key wellness provider empowering people to take charge of their personal health.



Contact FitPros to diversify your company’s wellbeing offerings and help employees meet their health & fitness goals.


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