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What Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees Means for Private Businesses

Veleisa Burrell


On Dec. 29, 2019, President Donald Trump added benefits to federal employees benefits and compensation package, including a move from unpaid to paid parental leave. Under the new guidelines, which begin Oct. 2020, federal workers now have 12 weeks of paid leave related to the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child under Family and Medical Leave Act. 

Often federal guidelines for employee relations become the standard by which the private sector operates, from parental leave to pay rates. Protections for employees often originate from the federal level as well, ensuring that civil rights for underrepresented employees are treated fairly in relation to their race, faith, ability and age. 

America Lags in Parental Leave

Currently, the United States is the only Western nation that does not offer guaranteed paid parental leave. The Family and Leave Act was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 after being vetoed twice by President George H.W. Bush. The Act, which protected jobs and was provided unpaid leave, limited the benefits to employees who had worked at least 12 months at a company that has at least 50 employees in 20 weeks of the last year. 

Outside of the U.S., paid maternal leave is guaranteed in Industrialized Western countries, and half have paid paternal and sick child leave. In the U.S., 83 percent of workers have no paid family leave of any kind. 

Benefits of Parental Leave

Studies continue to show the benefits to both parents and children when paid leave is made available: mothers are more likely to bond with newborns through skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, fathers form stronger bonds with infants, and it raises the likelihood of mothers returning to the job force. 

With the federal government moving family and medical leave from unpaid to paid, it shifts the conversation happening on a state and federal level. States who have done studies of the benefits, such as California, have already mandated paid leave for workers under their jurisdiction. 

New Normal: Paid Parental Leave for All

According to an Unum study, paid parental leave is a favorite benefit among workers, ranking above flexible and remote work and pet-friendly workplaces. With the stamp of approval for paid over unpaid parental leave due to the signing of the expansion of FMLA, states and the private sector now have more incentive to look at the economics of the benefit and the impact it has on hiring and retaining talent. 

According to a 2018 Mercer study, the pressure to enact employee policies from government at any level creates action in the private sector: 

“New statutory paid leave mandates enacted at the state and local level may be a factor driving the increase in paid parental and caregiver leaves. Understanding the interaction between the design, administration and cost of state leave laws and employer policies is an increasing challenge for employers of all sizes, creating both risks and opportunities.”

If you want to be seen as an employer of choice by underrepresented professionals, many of whom are balancing caregiving for elders and children simultaneously, paid parental and family leave is a non-negotiable. Additionally, the company should be advocating for industry-wide changes to accommodate working parents. 

Do you work for a company on the forefront that is offering multiple weeks of paid parental and family leave? Share your individual story, anonymously, and help improve workplace culture across your industry. Create your account at Find out more about Kanarys or contact us.

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