What U.S. Businesses Can Learn From Parental Leave Trends Around the World

What U.S. Businesses Can Learn From Parental Leave Trends Around the World

This article was updated on Aug. 27, 2018.

The U.S. hasn't been a leader in parental leave trends, but some American businesses are taking progressive steps in this area by taking cues from their global counterparts. Among 41 industrialized countries, the U.S. is the only one that doesn't mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to the Pew Research Center. However, as the business world becomes increasingly globalized, growing numbers of organizations operate in the U.S. as well as in countries that have more robust parental leave requirements. And some, perhaps influenced by the positive results of paid parental leave policies elsewhere, are bringing versions of those policies to their U.S. workforce.

Parental Leave Policies Around the World

The countries that offer the most paid leave — more than a year's worth — include Japan, Norway and Austria, reports Pew Research Center. In most countries, paid leave refers to maternity leave, but more and more countries are offering paid leave specifically for fathers. This includes Japan and Korea. "Portugal, Norway, Luxembourg and Iceland are also relatively generous in this regard, mandating about two months of leave or more for new dads," reports Pew Research Center.

American Employees Can Benefit From Generous Foreign Policies

The U.S.-based employees of Swedish music business Spotify are one such beneficiary of the influence of foreign parental benefits. Spotify offers six months of parental leave to full-time employees around the world. New parents at the organization are able to take the six months all at once or in three installments, anytime during the first three years of their child's life. The policy also includes one month of flexible work options for new parents returning to work, which includes flexible hours, working from home or working part-time.

Ikea, another Swedish business with U.S.-based employees, has also expanded its parental leave policy. Ikea gives its thousands of U.S. employees up to four months of paid parental leave, whether they work full-time or part-time.

The Global Influence on U.S. Organizations

Generous parental leave policies have appeared sporadically across the U.S. According to Recode, Netflix offers a full year of paid parental leave to salaried employees, while Microsoft, Airbnb, Twitter and Amazon offer at least 20 weeks.

Still, these policies aren't yet standard or widespread. In fact, only 15 percent of American workers had the ability to take paid parental leave in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, Pew Research Center notes that even though the U.S. is the only country without a national paid leave mandate, states like California, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have state-mandated leave plans.

Be a Forerunner

Any business can offer parental leave without being required to do so. Organizations that implement such policies will likely be seen as forward-looking and employee-focused. If your organization is interested in joining those ranks, start by taking time to study the existing policies in place by businesses like Spotify, Netflix and Amazon.

In developing your organization's policy, remember that in order to avoid discrimination lawsuits, it's important to consider whether to offer the same benefits for both men and women, adoptive and biological parents and staff at various levels of the business. For example, Netflix came under fire for originally only offering parental leave benefits to salaried workers and not hourly ones.

While developing and implementing a paid parental leave policy will require resources, keep in mind that providing such a benefit can help you attract and retain top employees. When your employees are able to take care of themselves and their children properly, they won't just perform better — they'll regard your firm as an integral part of their happy and balanced life.