maternity leave

These Companies Want to Be Exempt from Parental Leave Laws

Close up of unrecognizable young mother with her newborn baby son in sling at home

This week, a report was released by the HR Policy Association, a group of more than 380 major U.S. companies, calling Congress to provide an optional amount of paid parental leave for companies. Basically, if companies meet that standard, they can be protected by state laws that may require more.

Basically, this means these companies don’t want to give ample time off, which is pretty lame—especially since many tech companies and corporations are willingly going in the other direction, with longer leave periods and more flex times. The companies behind this report are giants, including Marriott International, Proctor & Gamble, IBM, Cigna, General Electric, Wendy’s, Oracle and General Mills.

Cigna Executive Vice President John Murabito, who is also on the board of the HR Policy Association, stated that companies providing leave, “should be encouraged to continue to do so. One clear way of doing that would be to provide relief from widely varying state and local mandates.”

It’s not a secret that federal law doesn’t offer much for families (or really, anyone), given that the U.S. doesn’t have a national paid leave mandate. Yes, you can take unpaid family leave, but that doesn’t help 99% of the population who aren’t extremely wealthy. Thankfully, states have taken this into their own hands, as since 2011, seven states have passed laws requiring companies to provide paid sick days. Meanwhile, two other states, along with DC, passed laws for family leave funds, according to Bloomberg‘s Josh Eidelson:

“In places like California, Arizona, New York City and Minneapolis, new laws let employees accrue at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours of work, or roughly one sick day for every six weeks of full-time work. Nationally about 61 percent of private-sector workers have access to some form of paid sick days, according to 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Twelve percent have some form of paid family leave.”

However, there is a bright side–it would “be unusual for Congress to override state or local mandates on pay or benefits,” according to University of Michigan law professor Samuel Bagenstos, Eidelson reports. This means that these companies may not be able to get their way, just because they want to—even with the Trump administration. Regardless, it’s disconcerting that big corporations drafted this report.

Those companies are claiming good intentions—for instance, Merck & Co.’s executive vice president Mirian Graddick-Weir said:

“While many existing government policies assume employers will only treat their employees fairly if they are required by law to do so, the war for talent negates that assumption.”

Really? I didn’t realize that all companies had the employees’ best interests at heart, rather than their money. Ellen Bravo, founder of the coalition Family Values at Work, shares this concern, stating that we need to put employee security first: “This is creating a ‘safe harbor’ for the largest corporations at the expense of financial security for families.”

If anything, this report should serve as a need for the U.S. federal government to step up and do the right thing, and mandate a federal paid parental leave period. If families are receiving the benefits they need to not only survive, but thrive, the country as a whole will be better for it–and so will employers.

It’s common sense, but a common sense that doesn’t seem to have taken root in enough politicians’ minds. Because honestly, we’d all like to stop writing about how other countries are better than the U.S. when it comes to parental leave.

 

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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