- Though the U.S. is only one of 41 industrialized countries without a federal mandate supporting paid family leave, a new SimplyHired poll of 1,000 current and prospective U.S. parents shows those working in government and public administration have the highest average number of paid parental leave days out of all industries surveyed.
- Men in the survey generally reported having fewer days of paid parental leave than did women. Men in government and public administration, for example, received on average 30 days of paid leave compared to 40 for women. The same split was to 21 to 30 in the wholesale and retail industries, 14 to 28 for the arts, entertainment and recreation industries, and 11 to 23 for the information services and data processing industries. Mothers and fathers in finance and insurance both averaged about 28 days.
- Male respondents (64%) were significantly more satisfied than female respondents (47%) with their parental leave, and the same was true of satisfaction with employers' flexible-work-schedule policies for parents returning to work (50% vs. 43%). Men (49%) also were more likely than women (35%) to say that taking parental leave wouldn't affect their financial situation. Women (31%) were slightly more likely than men (30%) to be passed over for a promotion for taking parental leave, and women (23%) were more likely than men (21%) to feel pressured to return to work earlier while on parental leave or to not take leave at all.
The survey results reflect observations made in other studies: men tend to take less paid parental leave than women, but women are more likely than men to be punished for taking parental leave by being denied promotions or pay increases — the so-called "motherhood penalty." A new study published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that managers tend to think female applicants who take longer maternity leaves, such as 12 months, are less desirable candidates than women who take shorter leaves.
Managers' negative perceptions of women taking lengthy maternity leaves, let alone any leave, may conflict with employers' stated desire to hire more women in leadership roles. This can affect well-being in the home: Nearly half of U.S. parents in two-parent households both work full time, but mothers are the only or primary breadwinners for 2 in 5 families, SimplyHired said. About 80% of recruiters in a recent Scout Exchange study found an increase in requests for female executives. While this could represent a positive trend for women, HR leaders must address managers' attitudes toward leave.
Retailers, often working with high turnover rates and a relatively low-paid labor force, are recognizing the need to offer hourly workers paid parental leave. Many retail workers can't afford to take family leave of any kind without pay, and so retailers facing tough competition for applicants in a tight labor market have responded with wage increases and better benefits for new hires.
A recent Mercer study concluded that paid parental leave is no longer a "nice-to-have benefit." Instead, it's now a mainstream offering that could offset the high cost of productivity losses from mental stress and financial worries, which can lead to unplanned absenteeism. Employers can offer more paid parental leave to men, but they also can make the return to work less burdensome by adopting phased return-to-work policies.