Inclusive Paid Leave Policies Build Stronger Families

by HRC Staff

The U.S. is the only industrialized country without government mandated paid leave.

Post submitted by Mark Lee, HRC Senior Writer

Every year, too many Americans are forced to make difficult decisions between the job they need and the family members they love. The U.S. is the only industrialized country without government mandated paid leave. As a result, workers are often forced to cobble together vacation time, sick days or unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave as they undergo some of life’s most significant or unexpected events.

While some employers fill the holes in this safety net, company policies can often exclude or unintentionally discriminate against LGBTQ families. For instance, although many businesses now offer paid “maternity leave,” these policies often limit benefits to pregnant women specifically, while withholding equal coverage to parents of other genders or parents who pursue surrogacy. Policies may also limit time off to parents welcoming a child through childbirth, an oversight that can disproportionately impact same-sex couples, who are more likely to foster and adopt children.

In light of these shortfalls, HRC applauds employers who have taken the lead to provide paid leave benefits that include and protect all families, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As top scoring businesses in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, EY and IKEA have already adopted a wide range of workplace policies, practices and benefits designed to affirm and support LGBTQ employees and customers. Additionally, they've recently established generous parental leave benefits that recognize the full spectrum of family diversity and formation, including LGBTQ families.

Recognizing that all parents should have the opportunity to bond with their children, EY offers 16 weeks of leave at full pay for employees welcoming a child through birth, adoption, surrogacy, foster care or legal guardianship. Additionally, EY offers up to $25,000 for all couples pursuing fertility, surrogacy, adoption and egg freezing services. Since enacting these expanded policies in April 2016, the company has reported a 20 percent increase of new fathers taking paid parental leave.

Inspired by its roots in Sweden -- where social security helps to subsidize paid leave -- IKEA is becoming a leader in the U.S. retail industry when it comes to supporting working parents. Beginning in December 2016, the company now grants up to four months of paid parental leave for both salaried and hourly workers who have been employed at the company for at least one year. IKEA also offers first day of school leave, flexible working arrangements to encourage work/life balance, and up to $5,000 financial assistance for the adoption of each child. With these benefits in tow, IKEA employees have an average tenure of more than five years and a low turnover rate for its industry.

As we continue to advocate for paid leave for all workers, HRC commends companies who are taking active steps to support families of all kinds. Still, much work is left to be done: millions of Americans are still ineligible to receive unpaid leave under FMLA, while others simply cannot afford to take time off without pay. Paid family and medical leave should be inclusive of all families and available to every worker, not just those working for a handful of forward-thinking companies. We can do better. We must do better.

To learn more about the Corporate Equality Index, which is the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBTQ employees, click here.