By Lisa Kaplan Gordon
A new baby is a blessing; but it’s a disruption, too. Nonprofits, like every other company with 50 or more employees, are obligated under federal law to give 12 weeks unpaid leave to new parents. But wise nonprofits would be smart to expand their parental benefits; it’s good for employees, and it’s good for business, researchers say.
Kelly Bedard, a professor of economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, studies family leave policies in California. California is the first state to authorize a paid family leave program that provides up to six weeks of time off with partial pay to employees with a new child.
Bedard says that employers that pay the highest wages are often the ones that most encourage employees to take paternal leave.
“That suggests that they find it to be a profitable enterprise,” says Bedard. “There’s every reason to believe that it could be beneficial for nonprofits, too. It’s another job benefit you can offer to employees.”
Here’s what the maternity/paternity leave numbers look like:
- Percentage of U.S. companies offering some paid maternity leave in 2016: 58% (Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study)
- Percentage of U.S. companies with 50 or more employees offering full paid maternity leave: 6% (SHRM study)
- Percentage of U.S. workers who received some paid family leave in 2017: 15% (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
All of the 20 largest U.S. companies offer some paid maternity leave, mostly because it helps them attract and retain female employees, according to a CNN Business article. The story says that after Google expanded its maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks, its loss rate of new mothers was cut in half.
Netflix offers unlimited paid leave for parents during the first year after a child is born or adopted. “Netflix’s continued success hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field,” said Netflix chief talent officer Tawni Cranz when the policy was announced in 2015. “Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home.”
Nonprofits, like for-profit companies, must keep and attract top employees, and expanding maternity/paternity benefits is one way to do that.
“Nonprofits have fewer resources, which always makes things harder,” Bedard says. “The for-profit sector that supports expanded family leave believes it’s a benefit to the company that attracts or retains high-skilled workers. There are a lot of skilled people that nonprofits want to hold onto.”
Besides, says Bedard, “It might just be the right thing to do.”
Ways to expand parental benefits
Although paid leave is the gold standard of parental benefits, it’s not the only way that nonprofits can support parents with a newborn. Here are some perks that show that a nonprofit supports and values employees with infants.
Offer flexible time
You never know when a colicky baby will keep an employee up all night, which cuts productivity at work the next day. Flexible schedules after childbirth can help employees pair work hours to an infant’s schedule. Some employers let parents ease their way back into work by working part-time for the first few months after a baby is born.
Make breastfeeding easier
Anything that makes breastfeeding an infant more comfortable and economical helps new mothers. Some employers pay for breast milk delivery services when a new mother is traveling for business, and provide on-site breastfeeding rooms with hospital-grade breast pumps, microwaves, and comfortable chairs.
Cover fertility treatments
Paying for fertility treatments or surrogacy-related expenses is a substantial perk that some companies offer. The benefit can also include reimbursement for genetic testing, and egg and embryo freezing and storage.
Designate parking spaces
Every step counts when an employee is heavy with child. Designating parking spaces for pregnant workers is a low-cost way of supporting and valuing expectant mothers.
Pay for sitters
Finding someone to care for an infant is tough and expensive. Some companies offer discounts at childcare centers and paid memberships to sitter services.