More people seem to be talking about parent-oriented benefits in recent years, but a new study suggests that the hype has not translated into results for employees trying to juggle childrearing with work.
“Despite reports from well-known companies that they have expanded their paid-leave benefits, the average amount of parental and caregiving leave provided by U.S. employers has not changed significantly since 2012,” said the Society for Human Resource Management in a press release accompanying a major study of employer benefits that it conducted in partnership with the Families and Work Institute.
Some of the long-term improvements to benefits appear to have corresponded with decreases in other types of benefits and perks.
For instance, while the percentage of employers offering some level of paid maternity leave has increased from 46 percent to 58 percent, only 10 percent offer fully-paid leave to new mothers, down from 17 percent in 2005.
In fact, the average length of time granted for maternity leave (14.5 weeks) has actually decreased slightly since 2005.
Similarly, the number of employers that say they allow workers to take a break during the workday to deal with family-related issues dropped from 87 percent to 81 percent over the past four years.
Conversely, the number of organizations that say they let employees come back to work gradually after the birth or adoption of a child rose by roughly the same percentage, from 73 percent to 81 percent.
One piece of good news for employees seeking flexibility: telework appears to have become more common. Forty percent of polled employers say they allow employees to work at least some time from home, compared to 33 percent who said the same in 2012.
The survey showed that small employers (less than 100 employees) are much more likely to offer workers scheduling flexibility than the largest employers (more than 1,000 employees).
Small businesses are more than twice as likely to offer workers traditional flex time (36 percent vs. 17 percent), more likely to let workers decide when to take breaks (63 percent vs. 47 percent) and much more likely to allow short breaks from work to deal with family issues (51 percent vs. 33 percent).
Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of FWI, suggests that it might take a bit longer before mainstream employers begin to follow in the steps of the big-name companies, such as Netflix, Amazon and Microsoft, which have made a point of offering employees generous parental leave benefits in recent years.
“Given our findings that 78 percent of employers reported difficulty in recruiting employees for highly skilled jobs and 38 percent reported difficulty in recruiting for entry-level, hourly jobs, these high-profile companies could be leading the way,” she said.