Thanks to new state laws and company offerings, everyone's become more aware of the importance—and health benefits—of paid family leave
Paid family leave is a beautiful thing: Not only does it allow you to spend time with your newborn worry-free (at least financially speaking), but it also does wonders for both you and your child's health. Paid parental leave can reduce infant mortality by as much as ten percent, according to a 2011 study of 141 countries with paid leave policies, and promotes immunizations and well-baby care visits, another study found. Paid leave can benefit adults as well—mothers reported reduced rates of postpartum depression when they had paid leave as opposed to when they did not, and fathers who took 10 days or more of paternity leave reported being closer to their children than those who took no leave. (Watch out for 6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression.)
Unfortunately, a 2014 report from the White House found that only 53 percent of parents were able to take some form of paid parental leave—and not necessarily the eight, 10, or 12 weeks some corporations offer. And that's not really including the unpaid leave people in comfortable positions get. (Take, for example, the last company I worked at full-time, which had 12 weeks fully paid maternity leave and two weeks paid paternity leave; my sister-in-law, on the hand, who is a teacher, receives zero paid leave but 12 weeks off—and of course, summer vacation.)
Now, lawmakers and corporate giants are taking notice more than ever, with several major changes making headlines. Today, Twitter announced that beginning May 1, all of its employees—male or female—would receive a whopping 20 weeks (read: five months) of paid family leave. "The goal of this change was to expand how we think about parental leave," Jeffrey Siminoff, Twitter's newly-appointed VP of inclusion and diversity, said. "Primary caregiving is something that's hard to define." (Check out these Health Tips from 10 Top Corporate Wellness Programs.)
Turns out the government is rethinking that definition too: Last week, the New York State Legislature finalized a budget agreement in which most employees in the state of New York will be allowed up to 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. Likewise, it can also be applied to caretaking for a sick parent, child, spouse, or other family member. New York is now the fifth state to mandate paid leave, joining California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington with this forward-thinking, healthful policy change.
We're encouraged to see both corporate America and Capitol Hill taking such great measures for women—and hopefully, this news is just the start of many more steps towards gender equality in the workplace. (Did you know Overweight Men Score Larger Salaries While Women Must Slim Down for Fatter Paychecks?)