American companies look to Europe for parental leave programs

Written on Apr 06, 2017

Some American businesses are taking progressive steps with their parental leave policies 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.

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.

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, reports The Huffington Post. 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. Fortune reports that Ikea gives its thousands of U.S. employees up to four months of paid parental leave, whether they work full time or part time.

Generous parental leave policies have appeared sporadically across the U.S. Netflix announced a new parental leave policy in 2015, allowing new parents to take unlimited, paid maternity or paternity leave during their first year of parenthood. Amazon has a policy that offers up to 20 weeks of paid leave to new parents who work full time. Amazon's policy also allows employees to share their leave with a spouse or co-parent whose employer doesn't provide paid leave.

But these policies aren't yet standard or widespread. In fact, only 13% of American workers have the ability to take paid parental leave, 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.

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