Why Businesses Should Push for Progressive Parental Leave Policies
Maternity and paternity leave policies in the US could use a dash of love. Most US companies don’t provide any paid parental leave, requiring their soon-to-be-parents employees to use short term disability to pay the bills. Tennessee requires companies to give 12 weeks time off for maternity leave, with pay “at the discretion of the employer.” However, this only applies to companies that have over 100 full-time employees. Therefore, small businesses in Tennessee (like us) are under no federal obligation to give any parental leave.
We don’t do that here at C615. We understand how precious the bond between an infant and new parents can be. So, how did we determine our company parental leave policy? Good question. Read on for the story.
After a horrific tornado touched down on our beloved town and caused the roof for both our Main and Loft buildings to collapse (not to mention too many homes and businesses destroyed, and the electricity for thousands to cease), we soldiered on. March 11th, 2020, day 7 with no power, we huddle around a table in the chilly dark for our weekly staff meeting. Light barely trickling from the partially boarded lobby windows, Beth, Center 615’s effervescent Director of Operations, cheerily announces she is pregnant with a baby girl! Five minutes pass, and serendipitously—or miraculously, not sure which—a buzz, click; the electricity comes on, and the large light wall behind us glows pink. Flabbergasted, our silence speaks volumes. None of us had ever seen the light wall pink before.
At the time of Beth’s announcement, C615 had not yet created a parental leave policy (though, we have a lactation room for our members), since the need had never arisen until that moment. Beth’s leading spirit makes her the perfect candidate to spearhead the company milestone. Setting the standard for our maternity leave policy, which we strive to make very progressive compared to other policies in the US. Both Beth and C615 owner Christian researched the best policies to model our own.
In their research, they found that the top things to consider when writing a new parental leave policy for a business are 1) the number of employees, 2) years worked of eligible employees, and 3) caesarean delivery and adoption. Though C615 has 8 employees, we aim to implement a better leave policy than our competitors with larger teams. Even small start-ups, who likely can’t afford the same generous policies big companies provide, should consider high flexibility with new parent employees.
When possible, parental leave should be paid, period. Multiple surveys show that quality policies help increase employee retention, boost workplace morale, and promote mental health for new parents.
As a result, C615 pushed for a progressive parental leave policy:
“PARENTAL LEAVE – Full-time employees who have worked for C615 for at least two (2) years are eligible for (16) weeks paid parental leave at 100% of earnings as the primary caregiver. An additional (8) week add on paid at 80% of earnings can be taken. Secondary caregivers are eligible for (4) weeks of paid parental leave at 100% of earnings during any twelve-month period. Full-time employees who have worked for C615 for less than two (2) years are eligible for (16) weeks paid parental leave at 85% of earnings as the primary caregiver. An additional (8) week add on paid at 65% of earnings can be taken. Secondary caregivers are eligible for (2) weeks of paid parental leave at 85% of earnings during any twelve-month period.”
After a month working full-time since returning from maternity leave, we asked Beth about her experience and opinions on C615’s parental leave policy. As the pilot employee for our policy, read Beth’s feedback and determine for yourself if generous paid parental leave is beneficial.
1- What were the start and stop dates of your maternity leave?
Tuesday, August 25th through Sunday, December 27th. Christian had also suggested that I work from home the whole month of August since I was due that month. I had planned on working straight up until labor (envisioned my water maybe breaking at C615 and rushing to the hospital!), but I was very thankful to be at home as I grew tired on my feet and felt more discomfort. It also limited my exposure to potentially getting Covid. I wanted to avoid being in labor at the hospital without my partner.
2- What was your experience like creating the Parental Leave Policy for C615?
It was both interesting and refreshing. Interesting, because it helped me learn more about maternity policies in the US (or lack thereof) and be able to compare other countries and companies. It opened my eyes to see the value, benefits, and importance of a good policy. Refreshing, because Christian is progressive and extremely generous. It’s not every day that your boss will loop you in to help create a policy that will directly affect you and your team for the future. I was very thankful to collaborate with Christian and create the C615 Parental Leave Policy together.
3- What research and meetings went into making those decisions?
Both Christian and I did our own separate research. He knew from the beginning that he wanted to be more progressive with a leave policy. We came together for one meeting to discuss our findings, listen to each other’s viewpoint, and nail down a plan.
4- Did you feel like the length of your maternity leave was good?
Yes. There is such a difference between an 8 week old baby and a 16 week old baby. I know so many people have to head back to work in the 6-8 week mark or earlier! That would have been extremely difficult for me and my husband, as I was still recovering from an unexpected c-section at that point. Plus, parents are still figuring out how to take care of a tiny new human and function on less sleep.
5- What did you appreciate most about your maternity leave?
The time that I had with my daughter. Infants are only that little for such a short amount of time, and I will forever be grateful that I was able to be at home with my new family unit for 16 weeks. It also allowed me time to recover physically, emotionally, and mentally as I adjusted to being a mother. I could not have done it without the help of my team that took care of all of my duties while I was gone.
6- Is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
Not really! There is the option in our policy to take an additional 8 weeks of leave, but I decided it was best to come back at the 16 week mark. I thought about taking a couple of extra days to ease back into being back instead of starting back full-time right away, but the transition ended up being easier than I expected.
7- How do you feel being back at work?
I feel good. Studies have shown that a longer parental leave boosts morale and retains employees. That is absolutely true. Knowing that my boss and team had my back and gave me support and time for one of the biggest transitions of my life is invaluable. I know it will take time to adjust to being a full-time working parent, but I’m learning to be completely present wherever I am, whether that be while working at the job that I love or being at home with my happy, baby girl Elise!
8- Final thoughts/comments on your parental leave experience?
The United States is due for an upgrade of paternal leave policies that match the modern workforce. The fact that most women need to sign up for Short Term Disability (before they are pregnant) in order to get a percentage of their pay for a short amount of time is discouraging. Or that they are not allotted much time off after having a child is unacceptable. I will forever be thankful to have Christian as a boss—for his generosity in taking care of others, his progressive approach to running a business, and his understanding of just how important it is to have time after childbirth to be with your baby. Reason #3,682 why I love working at Center 615.
We encourage all businesses to model their maternity and paternity leave policies in a way that reflects the infinite value of new parent employees. With the rise of “quarantine babies” it’s time to check your company’s parental leave policy!