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Paid parental leave growing, still uncommon

The U.S. continues to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to federally mandated paid parental leave, but a new report by Paid Leave for the United States finds parental leave growing among top employers.


The top 18 companies studied collectively employ over 4.3 million people.


Among them are the 2 million–particularly low-income employees–who now have access to paid family leave in the past year alone.


Walmart started offering up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave.  That change affected more than half a million workers.


Starbucks, CVS Health, Gap Inc., Esteé Lauder, TJX, Chipotle, and others are expanding their paid leave benefits.


Other countries like Denmark offer greatly increased paternity and maternity leave when compared to the US.


Denmark enacted federal regulations that permit up to 52 weeks of partially paid leave for dads.  But it is still not common for new dads to take more than two weeks of parental leave.


The benefits to taking advantage of an extended period of leave are well documented.


Smart companies realize that paid leave policies increase retention and make employees feel supported.  The adverse affects of rushing back to work can be mentally and physically draining, for both moms and dads.


Research has shown links between inadequate paid leave policies and higher incidences of clinically diagnosable anxiety and depression.  This occurs both during postpartum stages as well as long after having a newborn.


However, paid leave advocates and mental health experts believe that many people experience psychological stress as a result of these insufficient policies.  Even if they don’t seek treatment for what they are experiencing.


Other important findings in the Paid Leave for the United States study include:


22 of the 50 policies tracked in the report don’t offer any benefits to fathers.


Companies like Amazon and FedEx don’t offer their lower-wage employees any paid parental leave.  Those companies have work forces that are made up of primarily contract and part-time workers.