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Lack of parental leave drives employee turnover

Sharon Florentine | Oct. 30, 2014
Not offering flexible family leave to employees may send your top talent heading for the door.

An interesting point the data yields is that new mothers who take paid leave are more likely than mothers who do not take any leave to be working again nine to 12 months after childbirth, while first-time mothers who take paid leave are not only more likely to return to work, but will return to the same employer.

In California, which has had a state paid leave program since the mid-1990s, 87 percent of businesses had no increased costs as a result of the mandatory leave program and 9 percent indicated that the program had generated cost savings for their businesses by reducing employee turnover and/or reducing their own benefit costs.

Change.org, an online social change platform, announced October 21 it would join an elite group of IT firms, Google and Facebook among them, in offering 18 weeks of paid parental leave to their employees, and launched the #ChangeLeave campaign to encourage other tech firms to do the same. Change.org's global head of HR's David Hanrahan outlined, in this blog post, the extensive cost-benefit analysis the company used to obliterate the argument that such policies cost too much.

"We looked at this closely and ran some hypothetical assessments on how many positions we would really need to temporarily backfill. The number was low. The current annual birthrate for childbearing adults in the U.S. is about 6 percent (and dropping each year). That's a mere 6 percent of your total staff population that would potentially be seeking parental leave each year," says Hanrahan. He urges employers to think about this issue from a different perspective. If employees are not offered leave, or are forced to return to work because they cannot afford unpaid leave, is this employee fully engaged doing their best work or are they distracted and resentful? Change.org's assessment reveals that the theoretical and opportunity costs offset each other, and that the cost to temporarily backfill "a fraction of positions for a few months each year" is not significant enough to justify not offering paid leave.

Maintaining Productivity

Another major concern for businesses is how to redistribute workloads and maintain productivity when employees are out on leave, says Rona Borre, CEO and founder of Instant Technology, an IT recruiting and staffing firm.

"Companies are starting to be much more supportive, and many tech firms are on the leading edge of offering paid leave, and that's fantastic. It keeps the workforce motivated, engaged and improves retention to have these policies, but, especially in smaller organizations, it can be tough to redistribute workloads and maintain efficiency," says Borre.

What Borre and Instant Technology's clients see, though, is that even when parents take the leave offered to them, many remain connected, motivated and productive; logging into e-mail after hours or in the middle of the night, checking messages and maintaining contact with their teams.

 

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