Survey: Fewer than 3 in 10 U.S. workers have eight-plus weeks of maternity leave
On September 11, NBC News correspondent Katy Tur returned to her daily MSNBC show from maternity leave. In the months since she had given birth to her son, Teddy, the insane news cycle has continued apace, so the show jumped into the fray covering the scandals of the day. But Tur herself made the most news when she closed the episode with a personal and heartfelt segment about her experience as a new parent—and a scathing indictment on the federal government's failure to enact adequate leave policies for all parents.
After sharing the hurdles she and her husband, "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil, had to face after an unexpected C-section and feeding baby Teddy enough to make up for a significant weight loss after birth, Tur was quick to declare, "Nothing about this story is exceptional! Except for the fact that I got a lot more paid time off to figure it out than the majority of new moms in this country. And Tony took more time than at least 70 percent of fathers out there."
Despite the relative luxury of getting five months' maternity leave, Tur and Dokoupil's experience highlighted a common issue facing most new parents in the U.S.: Paid parental leave is essential—as much for new fathers as for mothers. "It is insane that 25 percent of women go back to work after two weeks," Tur continued. "And I think it is insane that 7 out of 10 men go back after 10 days or less. Not because they want to go back—almost nobody wants to go back to work that soon—but because they are forced to go back, either because they can’t afford to stay home or because they feel societal or professional pressure to prove they are serious about their job."
Earlier this year, Ad Age and our partners at Facebook selected 31 winners of Ad Age honorifics from 2018 to form The List and charged them with the mission of identifying and coming up with solutions for challenges facing the industry. At The List's inaugural meeting in April, the members discussed everything from diversity and inclusion to mental health to climate change, but one issue quickly emerged as the dominant one directly affecting most of the people in the room both professionally and personally: the lack of equitable family leave policies in the U.S.
A recent Morning Consult survey of 2,000 U.S. workers of diverse ages, genders, income levels, ethnicities, education levels and regions of the country found that only 27 percent have access to eight-plus weeks of maternity leave. The survey—spearheaded by List member and Morning Consult CEO Michael Ramlet—found that paternity leave is even more scarce, with only 15 percent of male workers reporting that they receive eight-plus weeks.
Among the other findings:
• Seventy-nine percent of U.S. workers believe that caring for young, preschool-age children is the most challenging part of balancing work and family life, proving that the definition of family leave extends beyond what we traditionally envision as a period of time following birth.
• A comprehensive family leave policy should also include flexible hours and work locations and sufficient paid time off, respondents concluded.
• When preparing for family leave, 73 percent of respondents said that having an employer with policies ensuring equal treatment regardless of gender, marital status or sexuality would have the biggest positive impact.
According to more data shared by List member and Fatherly co-founder and CEO Mike Rothman of a survey of 500 parents, half of parents believe their current company's parental policies, including leave and childcare assistance, are subpar or below expectations. The survey from FatherlyIQ, the site's research arm, also found that when considering a new job, 88 percent of respondents said that a company's parental policies are important.
Since its founding in 2015, Fatherly has been reporting on the minimal effect parental leave has on businesses as well as examining the difficulty of re-entering the workforce when returning to the job after paternity leave. As The List continues its work examining the companies that offer the best family-forward leave, members are considering how such policies can have a positive impact on the bottom line: Can better family leave policies improve employee retention rates? Can comprehensive family leave generate job interest from more diverse talent pool—and even improve worker productivity?
On Thursday, September 26, at 5:15 PM, List members Meredith Guerriero, head of U.S. partnerships at Pinterest; Thai Randolph, GM and EVP of Kevin Hart's Laugh Out Loud Network; Dia Simms, president of Combs Enterprises; and Rothman will join John Dioso, editor of Ad Age Studio 30, for a panel discussion at Advertising Week New York's "Future Is Female" track to discuss the topic "Is a Comprehensive Family Leave Policy Good for Business?"