Today, a majority of Americans (80%, according to a recent poll) agree that paid maternity leave serves the greater public good, but the notion of paid time off for child-rearing was unheard of just decades ago.
In the 1960s, women were typically expected to quit their jobs when they became pregnant, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Only 44% of women worked throughout their pregnancy, and more than 60% of women in the United States quit their job after the birth of their first child. It took decades of social, legal and cultural change for businesses to begin offering various forms of paid maternity leave.
More recently, benefits for same-sex couples were in question until the United States Supreme Court declared marriage equality as law. Management, employees and HR leaders continue to drive policy change within companies. A Master of Business Administration in Human Resources equips graduates with the skills to drive and lead those conversations.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: A Case Study in Benefits Gone Too Far?
A recent article in The New York Times highlighted some of the risks involved in instituting progressive workplace policies. In 2015, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began offering its employees one year of paid parental leave. Four years later, the foundation cut the leave period down to six months, citing work impairment as the key reason. This dialing back on parental leave highlights the issues inherent in being on the forefront of progressive policy change. According to the article, six months appears to be the magic number when it comes to paid maternity leave — not too much, not too little.
Steven Rice, former head of HR at the Gates Foundation, said the decision to pull back to six months of paid maternity leave was based on research.
Trends Within HR Policy
As paid parental leave becomes more the norm in this country, several policy changes are still en route to gaining mainstream acceptance in the workplace.
- Paid paternity leave: The United States is one of only eight countries with no national law that guarantees paid leave for fathers or mothers. While 38% of employers offer paid parental leave of one sort or another, paid paternity leave still lags behind paid maternity leave.
- Remote work: The ability to work from home is popular among workers and gaining acceptance among employers. Tutors, accountants and transcribers are three professions experiencing increased levels of stay-at-home workers, according to a 2018 Forbes
- Onsite fitness: One-third of employees polled by BenefitNew cited company-paid gym memberships or access to a workplace gym as a desired job benefit. Exercise is not only pleasurable, the poll noted, but it can also lower healthcare expenses and increase worker productivity.
- Student loan repayment: More than 44 million borrowers in the United States collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. It should come as no surprise that a growing number of employees are seeking debt relief from employers.
Lead the Policy Change Discussion With an MBA in HR Management
HR leaders understand the needs and desires of employees and communicate those requests to upper management. When a company’s benefits match the needs of its employees, workers are more productive and motivated. Additionally, a robust employee benefits package can help to attract and retain talent.
The online MBA in HR Management from Fitchburg State University equips HR leaders with the language and know-how to communicate the need for policy change within an organization. Courses in the online degree program are taught by Fitchburg State faculty, and the program can be completed in as few as 12 months.
Learn more about Fitchburg State’s online MBA program in Human Resources Management.