Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies Provide Paid Leave Model for the Nation
Oct 01, 2013
By Lauren French
Working Mother magazine recently released its 28th annual list of the 100 Best Companies for working moms, honoring employers who offer flexible work schedules and benefits that provide support for women and working parents.
One of the most important benefits considered by the Working Mother Research Institute is the provision of paid leave. Working Mother’s 100 Best Company winners have always been required to provide some paid maternity leave, but inclusion on the 2013 list required companies to offer (or have firm, immediate plans to begin offering) at least one week of fully paid maternity leave. On average, the Best Companies offered eight weeks of fully paid maternity leave, as well as three weeks of paid paternity leave and five weeks of paid adoption leave.
Although the number of leading companies on this list marks progress for working parents, there are still far too many women and families without access to this critical support. Currently, only 11 percent of private sector workers have paid leave, and only 40 percent have access to disability insurance through their employers. Low-wage workers are among the least likely to have access to paid leave, though they are most in need of the financial security it provides. Increasingly, policymakers, the public, and business leaders agree: it is time to implement a national paid leave policy so that all workers, not just the lucky few, have access to this important workplace protection.
The top of the Best Companies list includes such powerhouses as Procter & Gamble, Deloitte, IBM, and General Mills. These highly successful firms understand that family-friendly workplace policies mean retaining more talented, loyal employees and supporting a strong economy. “We want to be the most progressive firm for working moms,” explained Karyn Twaronite, a partner at Best Company designee Ernest & Young LLP, “We want to stay as competitive as possible to attract and retain the best talent.”
Deloitte CEO Joseph Echevarria recently joined Senator Kirstin Gillibrand on a panel at the Center for American Progress, where she announced her plans to introduce national paid leave insurance legislation. Along with other business leaders and experts, Echevarria discussed Deloitte’s outstanding supports for women and families.
A U.S. Census Bureau report found that women who have access to paid leave are more likely to return to the same employer after giving birth as compared to those without paid leave. At a time when our economy is struggling to recover, offering paid family leave can ease the burden on stretched government budgets and provide families the stability they need to continue working and earning. When parents are able to afford the basics for their growing families by spending money on food and doctor visits in their communities, it creates a stronger, self-sustaining economy.
Although these 100 companies are shining examples of progressive, effective workplaces, they also highlight how far the rest of the country has yet to go. The United States remains the only high-income country in the world without a national paid leave policy. As a result, just 16 percent of U.S. companies offer paid maternity leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires some employers to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child or attend to a serious illness, but the law offers no protection to 4 out of 10 workers because of narrow eligibility. Even workers who are protected under FMLA often cannot afford to take unpaid leave. Consequently, many working parents face the prospect of losing income, or even their jobs, when a new child joins the family.
That lost income is especially devastating to low-income communities, which are disproportionately affected by lack of paid leave. Forty-one percent of low-income working parents (those with household incomes below twice the federal poverty level) receive no paid leave of any kind, including sick, vacation, or personal days. This is compared to only 16 percent of working parents above that level who do not receive paid leave.
While paid leaves policies among Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies are certainly a step in the right direction, there is still much to be done. It is time we strengthen our families, and our economy, by enacting a national paid family leave policy that works for everyone.