Having a new addition to a household can be a stressful and extremely exhausting time. As a result, parental leave is always a hot topic — which is fair, considering the United States isn't actually all that great at offering it. Some individual employers, though, are stepping up to the plate and setting high standards for everyone else to follow. In fact, one law firm is offering "unlimited" paid parental leave for moms and dads — and here's how that's ahead of the curve.
Currently, the United States is one of only four countries that doesn't have a federally mandated policy to give new parents time off, according to Business Insider. You might be tempted to say, "Hey, what about the Family and Medical Leave Act?" True, that exists — but it only protects your job for up to 12 weeks after childbirth or adoption. And it doesn't actually require that you receive pay during that time, though, as outlined by The Cut. For many new parents, taking time off without pay isn't feasible.
The United States needs to do more for parents. Luckily, some companies are listening to their employees and are accepting the challenge of creating incredible new policies of their own.
Susman Godrey L.L.P., a law firm with offices in Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York, has expanded its parental leave policy in an incredible way. Now, as reported by Texas Lawyer, all associates will have access to unlimited paid parental leave — regardless of their gender or whether they gave birth or are a caregiver.
The process works like this, as outlined by Above the Law: associates will have hours annualized for year-end bonus purposes, for up to 12 weeks for any associate and up to 18 weeks for delivering mothers. In other words, this means their time off won't count against them for bonuses. It's a big improvement from prior policy, which Texas Lawyer noted as providing only up to 16 weeks for a woman who delivered and up to four weeks for other parents.
Paternity leave isn't often brought up in conversations, but it is important, too. As noted by the U.S. Department of Labor, paid paternity leave tends to be much shorter than paid maternity leave. That poses problems, for mothers who may need extra assistance, but also for LGBTQ couples.
When speaking about the new policy, Susman Godfrey partner Erica Harris said, according to Texas Lawyer:
There’s a recognition that all parents need and want time with their children, and while the fact that you are a delivering mother adds an additional burden that justifies additional time, everybody needed more time.
Parental leave has real benefits, for both parents and children. According to a study by the University of Maryland, longer maternity leave lowers risk of postpartum depression. Dr. Rada K. Dagher, who led the study, said, according to UMD Right Now:
In the United States, most working women are back to work soon after giving birth, with the majority not taking more than three months of leave. But our study showed that women who return to work sooner than six months after childbirth have an increased risk of postpartum depressive symptoms.
In Sweden, where parents have 480 days of paid parental leave to divide between themselves (and 90 of those are for dads exclusively), the benefits of paternal leave are clear. The infant mortality rate is half that of the United States', according to Motherly. In addition, paternity leave sets the stage for a lifetime of engaged fatherhood and better development outcomes for kids, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Hopefully, the United States will begin setting federal standards that place value in parents. But, for now, it's incredible to see companies stepping up to do what is right.