by Keary McCarthy, President and CEO of Innovation Ohio //
The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not offer guaranteed, legally protected paid parental leave. Today, only 13 percent of US workers have access to paid family leave, and even more alarming is the reality that only four percent of low-wage workers are offered this benefit.
But 2015 has been a huge year of new opportunity for many working moms and dads. A wave of progress is sweeping the nation as policymakers and employers demonstrate leadership in implementing paid parental leave policies. A growing list of cities and companies are beginning to take action to provide paid leave for new parents. And change is happening right here in Ohio where Innovation Ohio is partnering with local elected officials to lead on advancing this policy in the state…
We published an analysis earlier this year titled The Benefits of Paid Parental Leave for Women, Families, Employers, and Local Communities, which showed that access to leave does everything from increasing immunization rates among newborns to decreasing infant mortality. And as many executives have already recognized, this report shows that paid parental leave can also increase worker productivity and strengthen regional economies.
For these reasons, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley introduced a paid leave policy for new parents employed by the city in August. The implementation of this policy made Dayton the first major Ohio city to offer paid parental leave. Shortly following Dayton’s announcement, we also joined with Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to introduce a proposal for a paid leave policy for new parents. The Cincinnati City Council has since passed the city’s first ever paid parental leave policy with the full support of the Mayor.
A Growing National Momentum
Mayor Whaley and Mayor Cranley, and an expanding list of mayors and city councilmembers in the country, recognize something that many thriving private sector companies had already known: paid parental leave is an essential, invaluable policy for not only working parents and children, but also for business and the economy.
CEO’s of many of the Fortune 500 companies have taken notice to the surmounting evidence from research backing paid parental leave policies. In 2015 alone, prominent companies including Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Netflix, Adobe, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs have all announced the implementation of some form of paid parental leave for their employees.
These successful companies have acknowledged the role that family-friendly policies play in increasing employee retention, job satisfaction, and productivity. The list of companies offering paid parental leave will only continue to grow as they recognize that family-friendly policies as the key to attracting top talent and building the best company possible.
Pathway for Change
There is still a long road to ensuring that public policy reflects the true need of working parents in the 21st century, but a growing movement in politics and business has started to help make America’s workplace a more family-friendly environment. It is encouraging to see more and more employers and elected officials leading the charge on implementing paid parental leave. I am hopeful that soon no working parents will be forced to choose between their paycheck and the care of their child.