Work & Family

Committed To Inclusion In 2020? Start With Changing This Employee Policy

By: Mary Beth Ferrante

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Nuclear families with a mother, father, and 2.2 biological kids no longer represent the typical American family structure. Today, only 46% of American households reflect this dynamic that once defined nearly 76% of our society. And while families continue to evolve and new forms emerge, companies are scrambling to adopt policies that best support the modern American family.  

As 2019 came to a close, diversity and inclusion, were at the forefront of many organizations’ policies. In fact, diversity and inclusion continue to rank highest amongst companies’ core values. Diversity, while crucial to company morale, doesn’t make good on its promise if inclusive policies aren’t in place to serve diverse hires. Now more than ever, companies are consciously shifting work cultures to accommodate different people who have differing needs. 

The hallmark of any inclusion initiative is a policy that recognizes everyone’s individual needs and experiences. Policies of the past have inadvertently played on biases, in particular, gender bias, often leading to exclusion at best and downright discrimination at worst. Moreover, private sector policies often exclude or unintentionally discriminate against one or both genders. Take, for example, J.P. Morgan Chase’s epic misstep last year when after settling a $5 million lawsuit brought on by a father who was denied his full leave, the company still insisted that employees designate themselves as either the primary or non-primary parent. To demonstrate their commitment to inclusion, companies must update, create and ultimately implement paid family (and medical leave) policies for everyone, no matter how they create a family or who chooses to stay home with a new child. 

America still remains the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t mandate paid parental leave. However, the US government recently announced that it would provide paid family leave to all federal employees beginning this year. While it’s undoubtedly a win for federal employees, its still a gamble for civilian employees faced with the prospect of not receiving paid leave at all, especially for non-birth parents. Though some employers are beginning to amend policies to serve the entirety of their employee population. 

Dollar Shave Club, which began as a startup in 2015, recognized the need to “grow-up” and with their employees. From its inception, the company mostly comprised of singles in their 20’s and since then has evolved to include parents who make up roughly 26% of the company. Above all, equity matters to Dollar Shave Club, as does choice in benefits and options. The company values diversity in family planning and is committed to flexibility, while remaining supportive.

DSC and companies that share their ethos recognize the full spectrum of family diversity and formation, including LGBTQIA families, which is critical to supporting inclusion companywide. 

All parents should have the opportunity to bond with their new children regardless of whether they birthed the child or not. Companies still seeking to implement any paid leave policy at all, should consider forgoing maternity leave in favor of paid family leave. While maternity leave is certainly an essential piece of the puzzle, and birthing mothers need time to recover, bond with their babies, and potentially breastfeed, not all families have birthing mothers. And for the ones that do, non-birthing parents still deserve time to bond with their new child. 

Companies that offer inclusive paid leave are already ahead of the curve; still, if they want to take their policy even further, they must examine and thoughtfully consider when and how employees should return to work after leave. Welcoming a child is a significant transition in life, and returning to work after this phase is a crucial step that deserves a well-thought-out plan and support from management and beyond. At WRK/360, we are dedicated to supporting all professionals (birthing or non-birthing parents) to create a career and family strategy that works for them as they approach this milestone.

It’s 2020, and different people create families in different ways, plain and simple. Companies intent on making their mark in this new decade will implement more inclusive policies like paid parental leave. As such, companies who commit to providing paid leave benefits that include and protect all families, regardless of how they’re formed, are the true leaders of tomorrow.