This week, employees of the Archdiocese of Chicago received some great news!
The Archdiocese announced that beginning July 1st, all staff will be offered paid parental leave for 12 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child. According to Catholic New World, the benefit extends to not only mothers, but fathers as well. To qualify, an employee must work at least 26 hours a week and be employed by the Archdiocese for at least one month. For those who have worked less than a year, one week paid parental leave will be accumulated every month.
Chief Operating Officer for the Archdiocese of Chicago, Betsey Bohlen, told reporters that they aim to be on the “leading edge” of a new family-friendly and pro-life approach in the workplace. Bohlen said,
“We do want to be a voice for pro-life, family friendly kinds of policies. The idea was to make sure that we having something that can work for all staff.”
So how is this new policy different from other leave policies?
Prior to this, the Archdiocese operated on a maternity leave policy common for many businesses and companies in Illinois. Under this policy, female employees who give birth or adopt children take parental leave using sick time or vacation time. As Catholic New World reports, it’s only after about three years of employment that a woman can accrue enough sick time to go on six weeks maternity leave.
In the United States in general, it is not required for businesses to provide their employees with paid parental leave. In fact, according to the Business Insider, the U.S. is one of just two developed countries that does not guarantee paid time off for new mothers. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are the only states that have chosen to implement paid family leave requirements. In total, only about 12% of American companies offer this benefit.
In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed, requiring companies with 50 or more employees to offer new parents 12 weeks of leave. However, this does not mandate that companies pay for their leave. It is also often restricted to full-time employees that have worked for more than a year.
So how is paid parental leave pro-life and pro-family, and why should it be something for more businesses to consider?
According to the Guttmacher Institute, one of the number one reasons why women choose to have abortions (accounting for 38% of women surveyed) is the fear that a child will interfere with or effect their career. In offering paid leave for new mothers, the Archdiocese has directly addressed this concern by reassuring female staff that having a child will not take away from their career goals or stability. Furthermore, the idea that women should not feel restricted, but empowered and capable of success while embracing the nature of their womanhood is something for which feminist leaders have strongly advocated.
Still, there are more perks to paid leave:
It benefits mothers
Dr. Nitzia Logothetis MSc, MA, psychotherapist and founder of the Seleni Institute, an organization for women’s mental health and well-being, explains the importance of maternity leave for women. She writes in her article,
“We now know that women who return to work prior to six months after giving birth are at greater risk for postpartum depression. In contrast, longer maternity leave leads to better mental health for mothers and prolonged breastfeeding for children (closer to the one year recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics).”
A study conducted by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University also found that women in New Jersey who used paid leave were much more likely to go back to work again in nine to twelve months after the birth of their child, than mothers who hadn’t used it.
In addition, the Chicago Tribune, in the article “Let’s Get on Board With Paid Leave,” cites the same study, revealing that in states with no paid leave, a quarter of new moms require public aid, at an average of $749, during the year after they give birth. On the other hand, ten percent of new moms in states with paid leave use public aid averaging $358.
It benefits fathers
In a study performed by two Columbia University Social Work professors, it was found that fathers who took two or more weeks off work after the birth of their child were more involved in their child’s care nine months later, essentially building better father-child relationships. The Business Insider also reports the results of an Israeli study, which found that the more parental leave men take, the more suited they become for parenting, due to changes in their brain.
It is also interesting to note that in Sweden, it is a requirement that fathers take at least two months off work before their child turns eight years old, in order to receive benefits. The Institute for Labor Market Study reports that in Sweden, a mother’s income increases about 7% for every month of paternity leave taken by her husband. Paternity leave appears to be a benefit to both mothers and fathers at the same time.
It benefits their children
Dr. Logothetis, continuing in her discussion of the benefits of maternity leave, writes,
“Research also demonstrates that the quality of the relationship between mother and child predicts long-term outcomes from physical and mental health to the development of learning disabilities, impulsivity, and productivity later in life. A mother’s well-being is key to ensuring healthy outcomes, and quality maternity leave is a fundamental piece of women’s mental health.”
She also describes that after the FMLA was enacted, birth outcomes improved with infant mortality rates declining as length of leave increases. Citing recent research, she states that with ten weeks of maternity leave, infant mortality rates drop between one and two percent, while with thirty weeks of leave, rates drop seven to nine percent.
In addition, a study conducted by the University of North Carolina on European leave policies found that paid-leave programs were linked to a substantial reduction in infant mortality and better children’s health. Surprisingly, the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn discovered that children of mothers who used maternity leave had higher education, IQ, and income levels in adulthood as well.
It’s even beneficial for businesses
The president’s Council of Economic Advisers released their report, The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave, in June of 2014. They explain that paid leave programs can benefit the American business by:
- Improving their ability to recruit and retain strong talent, since it is an attractive feature
- Lowering costly worker turnover
- Minimizing loss of “firm-specific skill and human capital”
- Boosting morale and worker productivity
- Increasing the probability that women continue their job after having a child, rather than quitting permanently. Again, this saves employers the expense of recruiting and training, for which the median cost is 21% of that employee’s annual salary.
In the report, the Council also refers to a number of surveys conducted on businesses that employed paid leave policies. After the state of California implemented its paid leave requirement, a survey of 253 employers found that more than 90% had either positive or no noticeable effect on their profitability, turnover, and company morale. A survey of 120 employers in New York found that those with flexible leave policies experienced significantly lower turnover. Moreover, the University of Cambridge found in their survey that companies with family friendly policies were more likely to have above average productivity.
So what other businesses in Illinois offer paid parental leave?
In Illinois, it is not a requirement for companies and businesses to offer any form of paid leave. However, there are a few companies that do.
Crain’s Chicago Business lists 11 Illinois companies, in the Chicagoland area, that have been named among the 100 best for working mothers by Working Mother Magazine. The following companies all offer paid maternity leave:
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Northern Trust Corporation
Northwestern Memorial HealthCare
BDO USA LLP
Grant Thornton LLP
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.
Kraft Food’s Group Inc.
For the complete list of Working Mother’s 2015 100 Best Companies, visit the link here.
Bloomberg reports that the following are the 10 U.S. companies with the best paternity leave benefits:
- Bank of America
- State Street
- Arnold & Porter
- Roche Diagnostics
It would definitely be great to see more Illinois businesses adopt more pro-life, pro-family policies like paid parental leave for the benefit of mothers, fathers, and children in our state.