How Paid Family Leave is Evolving

April 24, 2023

Explore the changing landscape of paid family leave as they grow to include paternity leave, adoptive and foster care leave.

How Paid Family Leave is Evolving

The concept of family leave has come a long way since its introduction 30 years ago. It has slowly been expanding to include not only maternity leave, but also paternity leave and time off to care for newly adopted children or those placed in foster care.

This more inclusive approach acknowledges the importance of all caregivers in a child’s life. As society evolves and employees desire expanded benefits, companies are beginning to match those expectations by expanding what “family leave” includes.

States leading the paid leave evolution

Eleven states across the country, from New York to California, and Washington, D.C., now mandate paid family leave for their residents.

These states are responding to the growing demand for comprehensive leave. A study by the Pew Research Center found 82% of Americans support paid maternity leave. And 69% believe new fathers should receive paid time off.

Colorado’s paid leave program has piqued people’s interest. Its mandated program provides 12 weeks of paid leave for all employees. Plus, employees who take leave for pregnancy or childbirth complications may receive up to 16 weeks of paid leave. This program is funded through a payroll tax that began in 2023. Employers and employees each pay half.

Good for the whole family

Paid leave helps the physical and mental health and stability of the entire family. It can reduce financial stress and allow parents to focus on bonding with their newborns. And mothers fare better when they have paid time off after giving birth – at home and work.

When parents have access to paid leave, children benefit too. Maternity leave helps improve child health outcomes like fewer premature births and reduced infant mortality. And providing new parents with paid time off contributes to healthy growth and development of infants and toddlers. 

Building a family-friendly culture

Paid leave programs help companies build a supportive workplace culture.

Many employees, especially males, can be hesitant to take leave for fear it will hurt their careers. Supervisors can help overcome their concerns by making them feel comfortable using the paid leave benefit.

Also, your managers and C-suite leaders can set a good example by taking family leave when they’re eligible.

Also, it’s important to be inclusive in your leave policy. There are many types of families in your workforce today, and you don’t want to inadvertently enforce gender or relationship stereotypes.

Good for business

Growing research shows offering paid parental leave isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s good for business. And it has a ripple effect throughout your organization.

Improves retention

You know hiring and training new employees is expensive. Paid family leave encourages workers to return to work with their same employer. In fact, 20% more women returned to work following maternity leave after California enacted its paid leave law. And even if they don’t currently need family leave, having a paid leave program signals that the company cares about its employees.

Boosts morale and productivity

Companies providing paid family leave report morale is higher and productivity increases. In fact, a survey showed nearly 90% of California companies with paid family leave policies reported either a positive or neutral effect on morale, profitability and productivity.

Attracts top talent

Offering an attractive paid family leave package is a great way to enhance your company’s reputation. In a study of highly educated working fathers, 9 out of 10 said it would be important for an employer to offer paid family leave if they were looking for a new job. And 6 out of 10 said it was “extremely important.”

U.S. slow to adopt paid leave benefit

Even with growing evidence, only 35% of U.S. companies offer paid maternity leave. And just 27% provide paid paternity leave.

In fact, the United States is one of just seven countries in the United Nations that doesn’t require employers to provide paid family leave.

However, Congress is considering legislation that would create a permanent paid family and medical leave program.

When you expand paid family leave to include fathers and parents of adopted and foster care children, you send a clear message to employees you care about their health, well-being and quality of life. Plus, it will give you a competitive advantage in today’s tight job market.  

About The Author

Laura Miller Forbes, aPHR

Laura Miller Forbes, aPHR
Email As Director of HR, Laura has more than 11 years of experience and is accredited in aPHR and is active in the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Laura is responsible for the development, execution and maintenance of internal HR programs as well as all licensing and continuous education requirements for The Miller Group.

Find Related Posts

Employee Benefits

Giving Back