The rise of parental leave

In the evolving American workforce, flexibility is king, and parental leave is expanding across the country — to workplaces' dismay, The Wall Street Journal reported April 8. 

Births have increased the past two years, and workplace policies are shifting to accommodate parents' needs. In seven states and Washington, D.C., paid parental leave is now required. Eleven states will require it by 2026, and private employers are expanding such benefits nationwide. On ZipRecruiter, jobs that actively advertise paid parental leave have increased fivefold since before the pandemic. 

More parents are taking advantage of parental leave: especially fathers, according data from the U.S Census Bureau. In 2023, parental leave work absences for men are up 183 percent from 2018. For women, they're up 13 percent. On average, 335,700 women and 76,500 men are on parental leave in any given month.

Length of leave is also increasing. The average mother takes 120 days of leave, compared to 110 in 2019; and fathers are taking 60, up from 45, according to leave-management platform Sparrow. 

Infants reap many benefits from having their parents home, including lower mortality rates, better child test scores and higher adult earnings. These perks are an investment in the economic future, Emily Oster, PhD, an economics professor at Providence, R.I.-based Brown University, told the Journal

But at least for the short-term, lengthening parental leave can cost workplaces. Someone has to do the work left behind by new parents and national companies have to handle state-by-state laws on parental leave. 

Employers aren't the only ones who feel the crunch.

Falling behind is still "a big problem for parents," Shawna Freeman Lane, EdD, a business professor at Highline College in Washington state, told the Journal. "You are likely to lose footing on projects and work that you helped lead or build because someone else will be forced to take it over." 

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