After reading Herald reporter Carley Porter’s story on parental leave, which was published today, the Herald Editorial Board agreed that the topic was more than worthy of discussing in an editorial.
To be blunt, our community needs a gargantuan improvement when it comes to parental leave policies and general culture.
It makes absolutely no sense to be arguably the most family-centered state in the U.S. but also be one of the worst states for parental leave. We lead the nation in state birth rates, so why are we nowhere close to leading the nation for parental leave? With today’s studies and research on the topic (plus just good old common sense), there’s no question that employees who receive an adequate amount of parental leave benefit greatly from being able to spend more time with their new additions to their family. Consequently, we find it absurd and a bit confusing as to why the majority of family-first Utahns don’t push for better parental leave policies.
In our conservative, religious state, the model of a dad working full time and a mom staying home full time is placed on a pedestal, which consequently can shove parental leave back into the corner because it doesn’t seem very necessary. But the reality is, many families in our area are unable to take on that model, and some families don’t want to.
What’s a single mother supposed to do when her cesarean section stitches haven’t healed up yet, but she has to go to work soon after giving birth to afford groceries and rent? What is a couple supposed to do when both spouses work at businesses that don’t offer any parental leave at all? Or a new mom whose postpartum depression begins showing itself just as her short stint of maternal leave is up? Or the father with no paternal leave whose baby needs round-the-clock attention for health problems? The list goes on and on.
And yes, we are aware of the main counterargument of this topic — that businesses shouldn’t be expected or forced to spend large sums of money on paid leave when an employee has a baby. Yet in the long run, experts say that it is much more cost-effective to have good retainment tools in place — especially adequate parental leave — than to skimp on employee benefits. When workers feel like they’re being treated well by their employers, they become more loyal to the company and more productive in their personal work responsibilities.
And, not only is extended parental leave a great retaining tool for companies, it’s also a great recruiting tool! People want to work for companies that care about its employees, and around here, that especially means prioritizing family values. But benefits to companies aside, when it comes down to it, why are we caring more about big businesses saving a few bucks over our community’s ability to start their families off right?
In our push for parental leave, we don’t mean a lot of time off for the mother and a week or so for the father. Paternity leave is vital when it comes to dads bonding with their children and learning and experiencing the process of child care. Otherwise, if both mom and dad go back to work soon after a new child comes into their family, most of the time the majority of child care will automatically fall to the mom. We as a community value fathers’ roles in families, but a lack of paternity leave communicates the opposite to current and potential employees in our area.
For the most part, extended parental leave isn’t normalized enough in our area, and a lot of that falls on leadership. If a boss isn’t going to take time off for a new baby, then the employees feel like they can’t or shouldn’t.
Utah parents shouldn’t have to choose between what’s best for their family and what’s best for their job.