Pregnancy or adoption can be both wonderful and stressful for parents-to-be, and the length of paid parental leave can make a big difference.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for any employer in the U.S. with 15 or more workers to discriminate against or treat unfairly those who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have experienced a pregnancy loss. Also, pregnant women have the right to keep working as long as they can still do the job.
Although 12 weeks is the average amount of time for maternity leave, many mothers take less. Currently Netflix offers the longest maternity leave of American technology companies — up to a year off at full pay following the birth or adoption of a child.
Several Texas companies go beyond the averages and the leave policies required by U.S. law.
Supporting working parents to-be, family time and well being, in 2019 Dell Technologies Inc., based in Round Rock, Texas, extended paid maternity leave. Employees are entitled to a whopping 26 consecutive weeks of paid leave plus 16 consecutive weeks additional unpaid maternity leave.
Even before this extension of leave, in 2017 Forbes reported that Dell offers other benefits to support families, including 24/7 access to a trained labor and delivery nurse hotline, on-site lactation rooms, lactation support services, child care resources and referral services.
Many families in Texas are familiar with RetailMeNot, an Austin-based online marketplace that offers online and in-store coupon codes, cashback offers and discounted gift cards and cashback offers while saving their customers money for their everyday purchases. The e-commerce guru offers primary caregivers up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave and nonprimary caregivers up to four weeks of paid leave.
Additionally, their website states that parents receive a generous baby bonus and childcare benefits.
In Irving, Texas, just northwest of Dallas, Johnson & Johnson has a whole website page dedicated to their expansive health and wellness benefits. The website states that all new parents—maternal, paternal, adoptive or surrogacy-assisted—can take eight weeks of paid leave during the first year of the family’s new addition at any of our operating companies across the globe.
Plus, mothers in the U.S. who have given birth can take up to 17 weeks of paid leave.
Also, there are childcare centers at six locations in the U.S., and they offer employee discounts for childcare in at least six countries. You can read more about their long company history and passion for creating company benefits designed to help employees build their families since 1886.
In Houston, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center offers employees who are not eligible for Family and Medical Leave an unpaid parental leave. Parental leave allows for up to 12 work weeks (480 hours for full-time employees; prorated for part-time employees) of unpaid job-protected leave for the birth and care of a newborn and for the placement of a child under three of age through adoption (including surrogacy) or foster care. MD Anderson’s parental leave begins with the date of the child’s birth, adoption, foster care or surrogate placement.
The Zebra, an insurance comparison site with headquarters in Austin, announced this past November that it will give primary caregivers 20 weeks of time off and 100 percent of their pay. Secondary caregivers will get 16 weeks off with full pay. Both will also get a $5,000 “baby bonus.”
Nicole Beck, director of Zebra’s public relations and communications, told Reform Austin in an email about how the company’s policies have changed over the years.
“Our policy was 100 percent company-led and sourced. We conducted research, surveys and had a forum to see what policies were most valuable to our employees. Back when we had 30 employees, our policy looked much different. Today, at nearly 200 employees, it is one of the most mature and progressive policies in Austin and beyond,” she said.
“Forty-four percent of our workforce is female, and 50 percent of our executive team (VP and above) is female,” Beck wrote.
These days, retaining top talent is on the minds of businesses and companies that value loyalty, and we may see an extension in pregnancy leave or parental leave for both caretakers in the years to come.
Last February, before his son’s birth, Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) advocated for paid parental leave policies.
“I will be taking a short paternity leave to be back home in Dallas for the birth of our son,” he said. Family is so important, and as a country, we must allow for parents to spend time with their babies because providing parents the ability to stay home during this critical period leads to better outcomes for men, women and families.”
President Donald Trump mentioned Allred’s leave bill during the 2020 State of the Union address in a call to Congress to pass the bipartisan Advancing Support for Working Families Act, reported the Dallas Morning News.
Texas doesn’t have state-specific laws regarding maternity and paternity leave. However, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), all eligible parents can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected parental leave from work. It can start before your baby is born but cannot extend beyond 12 weeks. The Act applies to an employer with 50 or more employees, as well as to all public agencies, and public and private elementary and secondary schools, regardless of the number of employees. The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off for pregnancy-related leave, however 12 weeks is the total. That means that if you take two weeks off before your pregnancy, you will have 10 weeks of time with your newborn before you head back to work.
What if you work for a smaller company? Your benefits could look a little different. From the perspective of your boss, it may not be a question of not wanting to give new parents this time with their new child, but whether the company can afford it. For small businesses, paid medical leave could raise concerns because, according to the Texas Workforce Commission website, a business with under 15 employees would be free to handle the situation in any way it deems appropriate.
In December, the United States Senate passed a bill giving paid parental leave to federal civilian employees for 12 weeks, for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child, the Wall Street Journal reported. It was signed into law and goes into effect Oct. 1.
The U.S. is the only country that does not have a national paid leave mandate, according to a report by the Pew Research Center, but California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia all have state-mandated paid leave plans. Some are wondering how pregnancy leave will look in the years ahead in Texas and beyond.
Dr. Carla F. Ortique, a Houston obstetrician-gynecologist and member of the Texas Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health told Reform Austin in an email that the first three months of a baby’s life are critical for healthy bonding.
“These activities have been shown to decrease illness for both the mother and baby which results in greater productivity in the future,” she said. “Medical evidence shows that the parents who are provided leave are more productive and have less absence for work. It is important to allow time for both the physical and mental healing that is necessary to establish wellbeing following pregnancy and delivery.”