Vehr reflects on how even a 3-month policy wouldn’t have felt sufficient. “With a 3-month policy, I would have spent about a third of my leave with at least one child in the hospital. The extended 6-month leave meant that I could spend meaningful time, especially in those precious early days, focused on establishing new routines and caring for my children.”
Decreasing an employee’s salary and retirement savings opportunities at a time when their expenses are increasing causes high levels of stress, conditions that have been shown to negatively affect children’s growth and development. Start Early’s parental leave program also aligns with research evidence about the impact caregiver stress and access to high-quality healthcare has on young children by providing employees with 100% of their salary and benefits during parental leave.
“I was really one of the fortunate parents in the NICU,” says Vehr. “I think about mothers who have to return to work before they’ve fully healed or parents who are forced to return to work when their little ones are so very young because not receiving a paycheck is simply not an option.”
A comprehensive paid parental leave program can aid in retaining women in the workforce. One study from Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that implementing paid parental leave policies in California and New Jersey resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the number of women exiting their jobs in the first year after welcoming a child and up to a 50 percent reduction after 5 years.
“When you invest in your people, they invest back in the organization which ultimately leads to increased retention,” notes Byville. “I feel a much stronger sense of loyalty to Start Early because of the space they made for my family.”
Vehr agrees, “I feel a deeper sense of commitment to our organization and more cared for as an employee.” She adds, “it really calls on employers to consider a far more empathetic, humane approach to parental and family leave, and it also calls on our lawmakers to support employers with that aim.”
The benefits of paid parental leave set families, employers, and our communities up for success, which is why Start Early will continue to advocate for family-friendly policies that support time for parents and caregivers to bond with and care for their children without jeopardizing their ability to afford basic needs.