In a significant shift in policy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced it will offer paid maternity and parental leave to its full-time, benefited employees in the U.S.
To human-resources managers (and business owners), the move was sure to add new urgency to the question of whether paid parental leave has become a business imperative.
It also is sure to refocus attention on the question of whether companies that offer months of paid leave to mothers but much less time to fathers are potentially discriminating against the dads.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint in June with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing JPMorgan Chase of violating the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against fathers when they ask for parental leave.
The latest survey by WorldatWork, a national HR association, showed that 38 percent of employers now offer paid leave for full-time employees who become parents.
The average amount of time offered was 4.1 weeks, WorldatWork found.
For the purposes of the survey, paid parental leave was defined as distinct from other paid-leave programs, such as short-term disability, sick time or general paid time-off leave programs.
Among employers who paid parental-leave benefits, the survey said 80 percent offered employees full and normal pay, 78 percent offered paid parental leave to all employees and 47 percent of workers were eligible to take paid parental leave on their hire date.
The U.S. remains the only developed country that does not guarantee new mothers and fathers paid time off. President Trump’s budget request, released in May, included a proposal to grant mothers and fathers six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, an issue championed by Trump’s daughter Ivanka. The new LDS Church plan will grant women who give birth six weeks of paid leave.
Broad paid parental leave policies have expanded greatly throughout the U.S. as part of an overall movement toward more family-friendly benefits.
Studies have found paid family leave can contribute to fewer low-birth-weight and early-term babies, fewer infant deaths, fewer cases of child maltreatment, improved mental health and increased long-term achievement for children.
There are good bottom-line reasons to offer paid parental leave, too. Companies have found that adopting these policies helps them to attract and retain top talent.
The likelihood of it would seem to be high, but whether the church’s shift prompts other religious nonprofits – or private companies – to follow suit remains to be seen.
Scott McGraw is Vice President of CCIG’s Employee Benefits division. Reach him at 720-330-7924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.