BUSINESS

Another Sign That Momentum Is Building On Paid Parental Leave In The U.S.

Adobe is the latest company to improve parental benefits.

In the latest sign that support for paid family leave is growing in the U.S., Adobe on Monday announced a big expansion of benefits, including up to half a year of paid time off for new mothers.

In addition to the unusually long maternity leave, the San Jose, California-based software company will also offer U.S. workers up to four weeks of paid time off to care for a sick family member, 10 weeks paid time off for surgery, illness or medical emergencies, and 16 weeks of paid parental leave for fathers and employees who become parents via adoption, surrogacy or foster care.

Announced in a blog post Monday morning, the benefits will go into effect on November 1 and will cover about 6,000 U.S. employees. Currently, new birth mothers at Adobe get 9 weeks of paid leave, while other new parents get two weeks of paid leave for adoptions, surrogacy or foster care.

“In the U.S., government mandates for paid leave are currently slim to nonexistent,” wrote Donna Morris, Adobe’s senior vice president of people and places, in the blog post.  “That means companies must navigate the tough balance between supporting employees during major life events and meeting business goals.”

This year has marked a real turning point in the push for parental benefits in the U.S., which is the only developed nation that does not offer paid leave for parents. Companies and local governments are stepping in to fill the void left by a lack of federal policy.

“2015 has been a banner year for work family policy,” Eileen Appelbaum, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told The Huffington Post.  “There’s an enormous amount of momentum behind paid family leave."

Adobe’s announcement follows similar moves from Netflix and Microsoft last week. This year alone, Nestlé, Vodafone, Johnson & Johnson, Goldman Sachs and Blackstone all increased their leave offerings. Even the U.S. Navy did so in May.

Deep-pocketed tech companies, which often have majority male workforces, can afford to offer workers generous amounts of paid leave. And with the tech industry booming, they must increasingly offer sweet perks like this to remain competitive.

However, smaller companies and businesses with majority female workforces can't always do the same. For example, a hospital with a female-dominated nursing staff would struggle to pay for a program like Adobe’s, said Appelbaum.

So while it’s great that these companies are stepping up, their actions also highlight the need for broader action. “Why not have a public policy to cover this?” Appelbaum asked.

The issue is certain to crop up in the 2016 elections. Republican candidate Carly Fiorina has already said she wouldn’t support a federal law providing for paid family leave. 

Three states currently offer some kind of paid family leave, including New Jersey, California and Rhode Island. But at least 18 other states are currently considering passing new laws, noted Wendy Chun-Hoon, the Washington, D.C. director for the nonprofit Family Values at Work. Nearly two dozen cities now offer some kind of paid family leave; Atlanta most recently passed a new law. The Family Act, which would provide federally mandated leave, is currently stalled in Congress. 

“Paid leave is really exploding in terms of an issue and a priority, obviously for families, but also for elected officials,” Chun-Hoon said, noting that the movement for family leave is also benefiting from increased support for paid sick leave nationwide. There are now 21 cities and four states that have passed paid sick leave laws. “And we will probably see more this year,” she said.

In New Jersey, workers pay a small amount out of their paycheck -- up to 70 cents per week -- to cover the costs of a statewide family leave program, which covers up to two-thirds of an employee's pay for six weeks. “It’s cheap when you spread it out over the state,” she said. 

The Family Act would also require a very small employee payroll contribution --something like $1.50 per week per worker to cover 12 weeks of time off for employees who need it.

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