Paid Leave Policies: Google Steps Up

For more than a decade, Google has been where millions of people go daily in the quest for answers. But according to an article published by the New York Times on August 22, the company recently had to do some digging for answers of their own.  In particular, they found themselves asking what, exactly, they needed to do to improve job satisfaction and retention among female employees.

One answer that emerged: improve their maternity leave policies. According to the Times, Google’s own data showed that new mothers were twice as likely to choose to leave the company than other employees. Rather than assume this was a constant that could not be fixed, Google chose to overhaul their maternity leave benefit. Rather than three months at partial pay, the expanded maternity leave benefit allows new mothers to take five months of leave at their full pay.

Google’s expanded policy puts them in the vast minority, even among those companies that do provide a paid parental leave. According to the Family and Work Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers, only 5% of all U.S. employers provide maternity leave with full compensation.

The result of Google’s step forward? New mothers are now no more likely to choose to leave the company than any other employee.

But if one relatively simple shift in employer policy is this effective at improving workforce stability, why aren’t more companies taking the same steps? Perhaps it’s as basic as not realizing how well such a change would work overall. Or maybe it’s the continuing misconception that the costs of paid leave are greater than the benefits.

Whatever the cause, maybe it’s not too much to hope that seeing high-profile successes will encourage other companies to follow suit.

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