The biggest advantage of maternity and paternity leave is the most obvious: Spending ample time with a newborn, or in the case of adoption, helping a child settle into a new home. While that block of time is crucial for creating strong family bonds, it's far from the only benefit when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. Continue reading for some less-expected perks, especially for employers.
Higher retention rates
According to research from the National Partnership for Women & Families, paid family leave, including maternity and paternity time, has been shown to improve worker retention and reduce turnover costs.
That can be a huge deal, considering that turnover can have a ripple effect on employee morale, and take up staff time with interviewing, hiring, training, and team building. The organization adds that when employees don't have access to paid family leave—even if they don't plan on taking any—they are more likely to leave their jobs.
For example, a survey of California businesses found those with a leave program had no increased cost as a result of putting that in place, and about 9 percent of survey respondents indicated the program generated cost savings by reducing employee turnover and lowering benefit expenditures.
Better morale and recruiting
Do the employees who don't take maternity and paternity leave feel resentful toward those who are on leave? It's actually the opposite, research suggests. A study of leave policies by Boston Consulting Group on more than 250 companies found that those with paid leave had better employee engagement, morale, and productivity across the board—not just among those who took leave.
Potential employees take notice of good morale and strong brand equity, the report adds, and a robust family leave policy can create a "halo effect" that makes an employer more attractive to both customers and new recruits. The analysts point out that in a 2016 survey by research firm Deloitte, 77 percent of workers with access to benefits reported that the amount of paid paternal leave had some influence on their choice of one employer over another.
The past few years have been a masterclass in employee burnout, thanks to Covid, civic unrest, political turmoil, rising inflation, school closures, and work-from-home issues. In a 2021 survey, the American Psychological Association found that 79 percent of employees experienced work-related stress, and impacts included lack of motivation, decreased effort at work, emotional exhaustion, and even physical fatigue.
That's led to a greater focus on mental health for employees overall, and maternity and paternity leave can play a role in that. For instance, a report by research firm McKinsey & Company on men who take paternity leave found that the majority of respondents not only found it a positive experience, but also said the leave led to an improvement in their relationship with their partner. That takes stress off both parents, as well as sets up a lifelong bond with a child.
In terms of burnout prevention, the McKinsey report adds that men who spend time with their children report a boost in happiness and fulfillment that tends to extend to the workplace. Many new fathers discover a newfound appreciation for their employers, the report suggests.
Aside from employer advantages and parental bonding, ample research indicates that paid time off for new parents has a profound effect on child health. That's because this type of leave has been shown to:
- Lower prenatal stress levels
- Increase breastfeeding
- Reduce infant hospitalizations
- Increase parental involvement
- Assist maternal health and recovery
- Bolster family economic security
All of these, especially in combination, can have lasting effects on children's health, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The group adds that unpaid leave—usually not affordable for the majority of workers who may not have adequate savings or worry about job guarantees—can have the opposite effect of increasing stress, adding to economic strain, and putting children at risk.
With all that in mind, maternity and paternity leave can come with a wealth of benefits for everyone, including parents, employers, children, and families.
To get a better understanding of which benefits and wellness offerings would provide the most value to your employees, download our ultimate guide to winning with workplace wellness.