Welcoming a baby into the family is a dream for many—until the reality of their nightmarish parental leave policies sets in. For American parents who qualify, the Family Medical Leave Act allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Beyond that, new parents are often at the mercy of inconsistent corporate parental leave policies, which tend to benefit high-earners the most.
Thankfully—finally—some companies are working to improve leave benefits for all of their employees. Amazon’s family leave plan especially seems to be raising the bar: Two years ago Amazon started offering its employees (both salaried and hourly) 20 weeks of maternity leave plus “Leave Share,” a policy that allows employees to share their parental leave with a partner who works elsewhere.
Two years in, the company says the revamped policies are successful across all levels.
“We heard from employees that our old parental leave policy wasn’t working for them, so HR looked into ways to improve it,” Steve Winter, director of HR at Amazon, told Motherly. “As we devised Amazon’s new parental leave policy, we wanted to make sure all our employees—including fathers—would be able to spend time with their new children, at a critical time in their lives.”
We’re especially happy to hear that dads have benefitted from Amazon’s policies: The company reports more than 60 percent of the leave users were men, which isn’t the norm in the rest of the country; on average, American fathers take just one week of paternity leave from work when baby comes. (Though that’s rarely by choice.)
In contrast, we can look to Sweden where parents have 480 days of paid parental leave to divide between them—with 90 of those days being for dads exclusively. Not only is the infant mortality rate half that of the United States’, but that time at home for dads has been shown to set the stage for a lifetime of engaged fatherhood and better developmental outcomes for kids.
Or consider our neighbors to the north: A study of Quebec’s leave program found that after the Canadian province introduced leave just for dads, fathers took up more household duties and moms were more likely to go back to work and even get raises.
This may be preaching to the choir: According to the Pew Research Center, 82 percent of young Americans aged 18 to 29 believe dads should receive paid leave—and most think companies should take the lead in making leave better for both parents. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are not drafting the kind of leave policies young workers want. A 2016 study by the non-profit group PL+US: Paid Leave for the United States found most top companies offered fathers less time than mothers, and some corporate giants—including AT&T, CVS, General Motors, Ford, Starbucks, Supervalu and Verizon—offered dads no leave at all.
Hopefully, more corporations will adopt leave policies similar to Amazon's. The research is clear and the workforce wants it. Now it’s time for corporations to catch up. After all, 86 percent of millennials are less likely to quit a job if parental leave is offered—so companies might want to help growing families if they want to keep growing themselves.