Cary, NC – Originally, I called this post – “Why Paid Parental Leave in Cary?” I know, I know, that made more sense. But as I thought more about it, I really think, for me, it boils down to this…“It’s the right thing to do.” But, let me explain. First, there’s this.
Last week our Cary Town Council unanimously approved a Paid Parental Leave program for Town of Cary employees.
I’m beyond thrilled that we are able to provide such an important benefit for our valued Town employees. So I thought I would share a little bit about the program, and why I am so passionate about this effort.
What is Paid Parental Leave?
Well, it’s exactly what you might think. It’s the ability to take paid time off when a worker has a new child that joins their family. Although we do have the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) today – that is a program that provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Shockingly, the U.S. is the only developed country without any required paid parental leave. You might be surprised to learn that the smallest amount of paid leave required in any of the other 40 nations studied is about two months.
This idea had been ruminating inside me for awhile. I had read an article in the NY Times last year talking about the “economic benefits” of paid leave and had recently connected with Commissioner Jessica Holmes who shared with me Wake County’s investigation. I was surprised that our public sector employees didn’t have that benefit already!
So, when I submitted this program for consideration, I already knew that I had a benefit at my job at Cisco that my Town of Cary colleagues did not. And I certainly know what an incredible privilege that program is for any working parent. I was lucky – I had the ability to take paid time off with the birth of each of my two children, and I found that time with them both so very important. A time to get my bearings on what it was like to be a new mother, which was such a huge undertaking. A chance to learn how to operate with less sleep. (Do you ever really learn that skill?) It was a unique time – bonding with my child, and doing the best I could at learning how this new life would impact me and my family. Like so many families, both of us work, and it was going to be a chore to figure out how to manage our new life. And I know that I was blessed to be able to do that without worrying about how to put food on the table and pay my bills, all while I wasn’t working.
While paid parental leave policies are growing in popularity, it’s still surprising that most workers still lack access to paid leave. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that only 12% of working people in the US have access to paid leave through their jobs. But, the tide is turning.
In the private sector, and specifically in NC, a number of companies already had this benefit, or recently added, or even expanded it. From SAS, to IKEA, NetFlix, Cisco, and Target – to MetLife and others, the list is growing. They don’t do it JUST because they are compassionate, but because it actually makes good business sense. Besides helping families, paid parental leave helps attract and retain great talent and keep businesses competitive in the market.
A study done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research has shown that an overwhelming majority of business owners surveyed said it didn’t affect their company’s performance or profitability. In fact, a number of studies have shown that this benefit has even deeper impacts, from substantially reducing infant mortality, and bettering a child’s overall health, to improving income levels in adulthood for children of mothers who used maternity.
And now, the North Carolina public sector is following suit, as you can see below, as presented in the Town staff report.
For Cary, our proposed definition is:
Our Town Staff are the consummate professionals – committed to the Town of Cary and our success. And at the Town, we are also committed to being one of the best places to work, not just in the Public Sector, but also in comparison to the many innovative companies in our area.
As an organization of more than 1200 people, we need to continually review our programs and to think about how to best serve our employees. Paid parental leave may be just the beginning, as we know that many families take care of their aging parents, as well.
This program will allow Town employees to take time off to be with their new family member – whether that child joined the family by birth, foster, adoption or guardianship.
That’s still an unknown. The staff report determined that it’s very difficult to project the costs of this program. However, compared to other benefits the direct costs should be minimal – as they will only occur when there is an additional cost above and beyond the regularly budgeted salaries, or if a department chooses to bring in additional staff or pay overtime.
For me, this effort really harkens back to our Town of Cary Mission and Values statement – where we state the following:
Employees are our most important resource. We will attract and retain the best employees possible and invest in their personal and professional growth.
Our collective goal at the Town of Cary is to best serve our citizens with the highest quality of service, enriching your lives by creating an exceptional environment. Our town staff are the ones that provide that service every single day. We need to continue to attract and retain the best Town talent and providing paid parental leave is a way to do that. It is my sincere belief that this addition to our benefits package is a key enabler that embraces our Town mission. This program supports our family-friendly culture and our employees, it demonstrates our aligned commitment, and moves us forward to lead.
Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.