Parental, Caregiving Leave Benefits Unchanged Since 2012

13 Mar 2017 2:00 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

Parental, Caregiving Leave Benefits Unchanged Since 2012

March 8, 2017 — While many well-known companies are promoting their expansion of paid-leave benefits, the average amount of parental and caregiving leave provided by U.S. employers hasn't changed significantly since 2012.

"Whether high-profile companies offering paid leave are out of step with the majority of employers or leading the way remains to be seen," said Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and author of the "National Study of Employers."

FWI designed and conducted the study on how employers are responding to the changing workforce. Released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Galinsky said that, while it appears a trend has started, the study found otherwise.

"Given our findings that 78% of employers reported difficulty in recruiting employees for highly skilled jobs and 38% reported difficulty in recruiting entry-level, hourly jobs … high-profile companies could be leading the way," she said, referring to Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson and others that have expanded their parental leave.

The maximum length of paid or unpaid parental and caregiving leave was recorded in 2005. Since then, maternity, paternity, adoption and caregiving leave have all declined. Today, the average number of weeks of maternity leave is four and a half, and a little more than 11 weeks is the average leave for a spouse/partner (paternity leave).

In the past 11 years, the number of organizations offering at least some replacement pay for women on maternity leave has increased 12 percentage points, from 46% to 58%, Galinsky said. But the study also found that, among employers offering any replacement pay, the percentage offering full pay has continued to decline from 17% in 2005 to 10% in 2016.

Telework also has been in the news in the past couple of years and, despite several big-name companies dropping their telework options, 40% of employers allow employees to work some of their paid hours at home on a regular basis. This is up from 33% in 2012, according to the study.

Of the 18 forms of flexibility assessed, there were few changes between 2012 and 2016, representing a pause in the growth of flexibility. In addition to regular work at home two forms of flexibility have increased:

  • The percentage of employers allowing employees to return to work gradually after the birth of a child or adoption (from 73% in 2012 to 81% in 2016)
  • The percentage of employers allowing employees to receive special consideration after a career break for personal/family responsibilities (from 21% in 2012 to 28% in 2016).

One form of flexibility decreased during this time, according to the study: the percentage of employers allowing employees to take time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay, which declined from 87% in 2012 to 81% in 2016.

"While more employers are being supportive in how employees return from parental and caregiving leave, there is less support for flexibility during the workday," Galinsky said. "What people need most is time off during the day, and fewer are getting it."

One finding that may have contributed to the pause in flexibility was a drop in management support for flexible work arrangements, a drop from 31% in 2005 to 14% in 2016.

Lack of management support is a theme WorldatWork also found in its 2015 "Trends in Workplace Flexibility" report. Of the 3% of organizations without flexibility programs, resistance from management and lack of jobs conducive to flexible work arrangements were frequently cited by respondents. Top management tended to be a bigger barrier than middle management, often acting as an obstacle to telework programs, according to the WorldatWork report.

"This is worrisome because having policies is not enough," Galinsky said. "Without management support, employees can't use policies. This suggests the need for more training for supervisors and others who manage employees."

Rose Stanley, CBP, WLCP, WorldatWork senior practice leader, agreed with Galinsky about the need for additional training. "Flexibility training for managers and employees is a rarity in many organizations."

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