“Netflix parents get a paid year off and Amazon pays for spouses’ parental leave.”
That recent headline reminds us that paid leave is a fairly common perk at tech companies, particularly in Silicon Valley where the competition for talent is steep.
Yet, that’s not reality for most Americans. Only 15 percent of the American workforce has access to paid family leave, including just 4 percent of hourly workers, the people who often need it most.
Paid leave is too important to be relegated to a Silicon Valley perk. We need a nationally funded policy, which is why I support passage of the affordable, inclusive Family And Medical Insurance Leave Act — or FAMILY Act — and hope Congress will act swiftly to pass it.
But American families can’t bank on hope. Given the current political environment, there’s no way to know if, or when, Congress will act — and if they will pass the kind of inclusive, comprehensive policy that the nation needs. While we continue to advocate for a national solution, it’s up to businesses (outside Silicon Valley) to lead on leave.
Entrepreneurs are on the forefront of innovation in so many ways, and we have a responsibility to be on the forefront of innovating workplace policies as well.
I hear you. Most of our businesses aren’t Netflix or Amazon. That’s ok. There are an increasing number of small- to mid-size businesses, nonprofits and municipalities that have figured out how to provide their employees with paid leave. It can be done — it just requires some planning and a commitment from leadership to align your financial interests with your values. Importantly, paid leave can save companies a lot in the long run through better recruitment, retention, and even higher productivity and morale — and it can help companies improve diversity and equity across their ranks.
In April 2016, I introduced “Geben Loves Families,” my PR agency’s paid leave policy. We provide 10 weeks of paid leave to new moms and new dads, whether they give birth or adopt. That’s followed by a two-week flexible period, where the employee can ease back into the work world at their own pace and their own schedule to make the transition as smooth as possible for them and their family.
After being featured in media outlets from Entrepreneur to Refinery29, our policy piqued a lot of interest. As I began having more conversations with business leaders interested in crafting their own paid leave policies, I realized one of the biggest barriers was knowing where to start. That’s what led me to create RewriteTheRules.co, a crowdsourced database of paid leave policies. If you’re like so many other business owners, you’re well-intentioned, but not well-versed in policy-making. For this reason, I created this database to sort by size of company and length of leave.
Paid leave is too important to be luck of the draw. So, while we can make in-roads one company at a time, that’s not enough. The business community needs to make our voices heard. We need to advocate for a national policy that works for businesses of all sizes, just as several states (and every other industrialized country) have done. Contact the Chamber of Commerce. Contact your state legislators. Support the nonprofits and advocacy groups tirelessly working to advance paid leave legislation. If you have a paid leave policy at your company, share how it’s positively impacted your business and how you made the finances work. If you don’t, consider introducing one.
As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of our nation’s historic unpaid leave law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), let’s realize there’s still so much work left to be done. Each of us has a voice and a platform to advocate for change. Let’s use it to rewrite the rules and make paid leave a right, not a perk.