John Oliver’s Funny, Yet Sad Look at the Parental Leave System

May 11, 2015

2:00 pm

HBO’s late night host John Oliver offers viewers reality checks on a weekly basis. During this week’s show, Oliver brought up a serious issue silently plaguing corporate America: Our country’s archaic parental leave system and its shortcomings.

Supportive parental leave policies are important if we want to keep women in the workforce, especially in leadership positions.  It creates a more inclusive workforce. The U.S. is the only developed country with no guaranteed paid leave for new moms, according to the OECD. The U.S. is one of only four countries in the world—along with Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea—that does not guarantee the right to paid maternity leave. At the moment, only 11 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tech companies are known for fostering innovative work cultures, and they should serve as role models for the rest of the country when it comes to this issue. According to a report by The Atlantic, large tech companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Yahoo “offer some of the most generous parental leave policies in the U.S.” These policies vary from offering employees equal time off for all parents to 4 months paid leave with “baby cash” bonus. However, policies are stricter when the startup is early on its funding rounds. The report found that while 100 percent of later stage companies (Series D, post-IPO) offer paid maternity and paternity leave, no seed-stage startups offer family leave policies at all.

Companies that have supportive parental-leave policies are likely to attract better employees. They are also more likely to foster a culture that supports work-life balance and does not stigmatize parenthood.

And there’s also the economic factor. Economists have found that paid leave “raises the probability that mothers return to employment later, and then work more hours and earn higher wages.”

This is an important topic that all companies, not just tech, need to think about. During his State of the Union address, President Obama talked about the paid leave as a crucial economic matter.

“It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is,” he said.

 

Image Credit: Flickr/Carol Von Canon

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Camila has been heavily active in South Florida’s tech startup community, where she is a co-host of a local radio show called pFunkcast. Camila previously worked at Greenpeace International and the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in various communication roles. A proud Brazilian who spent most of he life in Peru, she is passionate about traveling and documentaries.

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