Why Strong Work-Life Policies Are Good for Business

From left: Angela Guy, Barbara Wankoff, and Tom Nides speak with CAP’s Jocelyn Frye at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act.

By Jocelyn Frye

In 2014, at the White House Summit on Working Families, a small group of businesses came together to talk about the changing nature of families and the implications for workplace policies. These leaders recognized that businesses — through improved retention, productivity, and profitability — are uniquely positioned to inform the public conversation about work-life solutions. They also wanted to engage directly with peers to learn from each about what works in implementing and administering different workplace policies. Out of the conversation emerged a working group called Business Leaders for Working Families. The goal of the working group is to leverage the power of their collective commitment to strong work-life policies to find targeted ways to elevate the business case for such policies and strengthen workplaces overall.

Since then, we’ve seen many businesses playing a leadership role in the ongoing quest to improve workplace policies. Companies that have been successful have an important story to tell about the benefits of policies that enable them to be responsive to competing work-life demands, better manage their workforce, retain talented workers, and maximize their competitiveness in the global marketplace. This leadership is essential to creating workplaces that are productive and effective, and strong work-life policies are critical to this progress.

Highlights from the Working Group:

Google

When Google increased its paid maternity leave policy from 12 weeks to 18 weeks, the rate at which new mothers quit decreased by 50 percent.

EY

In employee surveys, they found that Gen X men (40 percent) were the most likely to leave a job if flexibility was not offered compared to Gen X women (37 percent), and Gen Y men (36 percent) were more likely to leave compared to Gen Y women (30 percent). In 2016, EY expanded their maternity and paternity leave to 16, fully-paid weeks. Even more notable: The combination of EY’s flexible work arrangements and increased access to paid family leave have helped to nearly close EY’s retention-gender gap. In 2016, EY expanded their maternity and paternity leave to 16, fully-paid weeks. The combination of EY’s flexible work arrangements and increased access to paid family leave have helped to nearly close EY’s retention-gender gap.

Bright Horizons Family Solutions

Bright Horizons conducted research to examine the impact of child care on the ability of women and men to go to work. They found that while both men and women credit employer-sponsored child care for their ability to do their jobs, women were especially impacted, with 81 percentof female managers calling child care important in their decision to join the company. Further, 84% of female managers say that the child care center has positively impacted their ability to pursue or accept a higher position.

KPMG

KPMG started New Parent Career Coaching. In 2016, of the parents who returned to work and participated in the coaching program, nearly 81 percent are still with the firm today compared to 72 percent of parents who did not participate in the program.

Aside from being good for workers and families, these findings tell a strong corporate motivation for expanding paid leave policies. For example, Johnson & Johnson expanded its existing paid parental leave policy, which guarantees all parents a minimum of eight weeks paid leave, and extended it globally to cover its approximately 90,000 international employees. Microsoft is requiring their contractors and vendors to provide employees who work on Microsoft projects with a combined 15 paid days for sick and vacation days. Starbucks announced a new paid sick leave benefit that will enable all employees to accrue paid sick time that can be used for their own illness or to care for a sick family member. And, Walmart, the largest employer of women in the country, recently announced an expanded paid parental leave policy for full-time employees, providing 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and 6 weeks paid parental leave for non-birthing parents.

These real-world examples make clear that expansive work-life policies can and do work for business and workers alike. More businesses should follow suit to continue this much-needed progress to strengthen workplaces for all.

Jocelyn Frye is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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