Looking to boost their work-life balance equation and better serve their millennial workers, employers are putting more emphasis on paid parental leave benefits.
Employers offering paid parental leave increased significantly between 2016 and 2018 for every type of parental leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual benefits survey, released this week. The percentage of employers offering paid maternity leave increased from 26% in 2016 to 35% in 2018 and paid paternity leave increased from 21% to 29% over the same period. Meanwhile, adoption (20% to 28%), foster child (13% to 21%) and surrogacy (6% to 12%) leave also increased in the last two years.
“It’s turning into a candidate-driven market, so employers are offering incredibly competitive benefits,” explains Trent Burner, SHRM’s vice president of research. “Employees, particularly millennials, are calling out for unique benefits that help with work-life balance, and more employers are listening by increasing their paid parental leave programs.”
A number of large employers have added or enhanced paid parental leave programs in the last year. Dollar General, TD Bank and Unum are among the companies that added parental leave benefits for employees, while IBM, TIAA and Walmart are among those that expanded their programs.
Other companies have updated their parental leave programs to be gender-neutral. For example, Estee Lauder last month announced 20 weeks of paid leave for all parents, while giving birth parents an additional six to eight weeks of paid leave. Broadridge Financial Solutions, a fintech company with about 10,000 employees in 16 countries, also updated its parental leave benefits earlier this year to include all parents. Previously, the company offered nine weeks of fully paid leave to birth mothers through a disability program.
Burner points to the growing trend as a win-win for employers: They are lower cost than healthcare benefits, but are just as, and in many cases more, impactful for a changing workforce.
“Many organizations are watching this and seeing the trend, and we expect them to jump on board [with expanding paid parental leave],” he says, adding that he expects the number of employers who offer leave to increase even more over the next year.
Employers have their sights set on increasing other benefit offerings, as well: A number of perks are showing significant growth, SHRM found, as employers look to retain and attract talent in a tightening labor market.
Overall, SHRM’s survey of more than 3,500 HR professionals found that roughly one-third (34%) of organizations increased their benefits in the last 12 months.
Retention (cited by 72% of respondents) and recruiting (58%) were the top reasons for increasing benefits, the survey found. Other employers said they increased benefit offerings after hearing directly from employees requesting those benefits.
Among the benefits on the rise: Consumer-directed healthcare plans (40% of employers now offer, up from 23% in 2017), telecommuting (70% now offer some form of telecommuting option to employees, up from 62% in 2017) and company-organized fitness competitions/challenges (38% now offer, up from 28% in 2017).
“With unemployment at an 18-year low, employers view benefits as a strategic tool for recruiting and retention,” Burner says. “Strategic organizations adjust their benefits year-to-year, depending upon their use by employees, cost and effectiveness in helping an organization stand out in the competition for talent.”
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