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National Parents' Day and the Importance of Paid Leave

In celebration of National Parents’ Day, which is celebrated in the U.S. on Sunday, July 22, Panorama staff reflected on what access to paid leave has meant to their relationships with, or as, parents. Being able to bond with a child, or care for yourself or a loved one is a right the majority of Americans simply don’t have. Currently, only 14% of the U.S. workforce has access to paid leave, a resource common in nearly every other developed country. As we celebrate our parents, and what it means to be a parent and shape a child, we find ourselves ever more devoted to helping map a future where all Americans have access to paid leave. Happy #nationalparentsday from Panorama!

“I was so fortunate to have paid leave for both of my daughters.  I had 12 weeks for each, and it was only at about week 10 where I felt I was even beginning to function normally again – I cannot imagine having to go back to work within days of childbirth.” – Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Founder and CEO

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate. I was able to stay pain free during pregnancy. I didn’t have any complications during delivery. And my son was a great sleeper from the start. Even with all that going in my favor, I still found the first eight weeks of parenthood to be overwhelming, emotional, and hard. I feel so lucky that I didn’t have to rush back to work, but had the time to bond with my son and my partner, and to rest and take care of myself.” – Linda Patterson, Vice President

“Having been privileged enough to take time with my family when both of my kids were born – that is something I would never trade, compromise, or question. Those moments of discovery and connection are incredible. Each day is something new and amazing when it comes to moments with your kids. Striking a balance between work and family is hard, but having access to paid family and medical leave when you need it means not having to choose between missing those precious life moments and paying bills next month.” – Kimble Snyder, Director

“As a parent, having access to paid leave is essential to having a happy, well-balanced life. It means being able to be present with my family for the important moments – whether they’re major milestones like first steps or going for a walk on a sunny afternoon.” – Trisha Comsti, Program Officer

“Access to paid leave meant that my husband and I could both be home after the birth of our first child. Those irreplaceable first few months together allowed my husband and I to work as a team as we figured out what it means to be parents.” – Cate Blair, Program Officer

“Paid leave as a benefit was never something I thought much of, until I received a phone call that changed everything. When my mom had a stroke, and my siblings and I became instant caregivers, the reality of what paid leave means came immediately into focus.” – April Matson, Communications Officer

Share your story with us #nationalparentsday #paidleave

Father's Day Reflections and the Future of Work

By Kimble Snyder, Director, Panorama

My father was born during the depression to tenant farmers.

The lifestyle meant early mornings and late nights, hard work and questionable income. As he came into adulthood, he took the road less traveled, putting himself through college to become an actor. To describe my father as a man of tenacity might be an understatement – he took himself from a one-room schoolhouse to a master’s degree, and from a wardrobe made of old grain sacks to one created by costume designers.

The similarities between his life on the farm and that on the stage may not be completely obvious, but each present a unique set of challenges not too far removed from the realities of the independent workforce we see growing today. The work is hard and inconsistent, it leaves the worker without protections or security, and there is no telling what the next move will be.

By the time I was born my father was 50 and had managed to find a cadence in these ebbs and flows. It was from him that I learned about what it meant to have a work ethic. He taught me to find solutions for anything that didn’t work, the meaning of “an honest day’s work,” and how to make the most of what was in front of me. Without knowing it, that laid the foundation for a future where I would work to align business and worker priorities.

A series of seemingly disconnected moments led me to a position with the Obama administration, and a period in my life that I will always hold in the highest regard. Part of my time there was served at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), where my fellow colleagues worked tirelessly to ensure that people, like my father, have the protections and supports necessary to be successful. Throughout my tenure at DOL, I frequently joined forces with businesses to advance worker needs, overcoming the prevalent narrative that what is good for workers is bad for business.

In that role, I came to understand the value of uniting unlikely allies and had many opportunities to create moments where seemingly conflicting perspectives were able to share common ground. The experience forever shaped my own views, and I vowed to continue the work of furthering worker-centric supports into the future.  

As I pondered the next step in my career, I was introduced to Gabrielle Fitzgerald, CEO of Panorama. She gave me the opportunity to think about how Panorama’s work with companies on paid leave might grow to encompass the needs of a changing workforce.

It was during these conversations that my father was abruptly rushed into an emergency heart surgery. His recovery was complicated, and he found himself in a rehabilitation facility. It was while sitting just a few feet from his hospital bed that I finished writing my proposal on this work – and in those moments I realized that while my passion for this work had always been clear, never had it been so poignant.

Shortly after, I joined Panorama – were I have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for business-led solutions that advance the needs of a changing workforce. We believe that a dependable livelihood should be a reality for all people and that the contributions of a diverse group of people is essential to driving innovation in the coming decades. This becomes a reality when all workers have the support they need to thrive, and employers see worker-supports as essential to the cost of doing business.

Regardless of where we come from, we all have to work hard to balance our jobs and the personal demands of our lives. I am inspired by the innovative ways businesses are leading the charge and look forward to working with these leaders to ensure that all American’s have the opportunity to thrive at work and at home.

Thanks to my dad for showing me the way.

The Influence of Tech on Paid Leave

As I head to the WorkHuman conference in Austin, I find my mind drifting to my time in the technology industry. As a Seattleite, it’s likely not a surprise to know that before I joined the paid leave team at Panorama, I worked in tech. It’s been interesting to learn just how influential the tech sector is on the national conversation around paid leave.

Media coverage of tech companies coming out with new or expanded paid leave offerings is frequent, with the industry leading the so-called “parental leave arms race.” The tech sector has sizeable profit margins and steep competition for talent, so it follows that employers are finding innovative ways of differentiating themselves from their competitors (or matching their competitors’ offerings).

What you don’t see in the news is how this race is having ripple effects far beyond the confines of tech. Through our work on The Paid Leave Project my team and I have had in-depth conversations with large employers on the topic of paid leave, and the influence of the tech industry has come up again and again. In addition to competition for tech talent, employers find themselves vying for non-tech talent when they’re in close vicinity to a tech company. Agnostic to sector, workers are heavily influenced by the media coverage on tech’s paid leave programs, and benefits overall. People across the country are talking about the industry’s generous policies in employee groups, millennial fathers are forwarding these announcements to human resources, and unions are using this information in their negotiations.

Tech’s outsized influence is indisputable.

As I look through the conference agenda, I see an abundance of speakers and thought leaders from the tech sector. Hosted by Globoforce (tech!), WorkHuman is focused on the next generation of HR, working with businesses who thrive by bringing humanity to the employee experience. While paid leave is clearly in this vein, I was surprised to see that paid leave is not a topic of discussion here.

We believe the tech sector still has an important role to play by sharing the results, outcomes, and impacts they have seen because of offering paid leave. When Google increased paid leave to 18 weeks, the rate of new mothers leaving dropped by 50%. SAP shared that paid leave drives an increase in employee engagement, and every one percent increase in employee engagement equals a $75 million increase in net operating profits.

We’re excited to see other organizations here at WorkHuman that are leading the way with paid leave benefits, including Twitter, Intel, and LinkedIn. We hope they will also lead the way as the national conversation on paid leave evolves; by sharing information that will build the business case, they can affect more widespread adoption of this benefit and ultimately increase access for more U.S. workers.

National Paid Leave Credit Takes Effect with Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – E&Y Webcast

On Dec. 22, 2017 the President signed the GOP-backed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. While it’s most known for the sweeping tax cuts it’s aptly named for, the bill also includes a number of provisions, including a tax credit related to paid leave. This makes it the first paid leave measure at a national level.

Unlike other recently proposed paid leave bills this provision does not actually require employers to roll out paid leave to their workforce. Rather, starting this year, it will provide a tax credit to those employers that offer at least two weeks of leave and compensate their workers at a minimum of 50 percent of their regular earnings. To qualify for the credit employers must offer both full-time and part-time workers paid leave if they have been employed at the organization for at least a year. This overall effort can be viewed as a trial as it will end after 2019, unless extended by Congress.

For more on this, join Ernst & Young LLP professionals for a Jan. 31, 2018 webcast on important developments in employment-related federal business tax credits and what to watch for in 2018.

Closing the Gaps in U.S. Paid Leave – Our Highlights of New York Times Story, “Walmart and Now Starbucks: Why More Big Companies Are Offering Paid Family Leave”

This is the most comprehensive article on paid leave we’ve seen in a long time.

Here are 10 story highlights – and why this news is so significant to American workers, business and the U.S. economy:

  • Starbucks just announced it is expanding paid leave to hourly workers.
  • This follows the same recent news by Walmart.
  • These are two huge employers of U.S. workers = huge impact in terms of increasing U.S. workers’ access to paid leave. Walmart employs 1.5 million in the U.S. alone.
  • Chart/ visual shows paid leave at about 20 of the U.S. largest companies.
  • Most important takeaway in this news: 1) We are increasing access for hourly workers, not just corporate employees. This is huge progress for equality. 2) Let’s acknowledge the role of the new tax credit at play here. It’s a sign that the effects of low unemployment have reached companies that rely on low-wage workers. Both companies credited tax cuts. 3) This is particularly significant because the retail industry is traditionally known to have low profit margins, making it more challenging to offer extra employee benefits and supports. 4) The tipping point. Industries benchmark against competitors. This news will have a domino effect.
  • “A corporate person having a child versus someone lower having a child, there’s no difference — that child still needs its parents,” said Paris Mendez, who loads trucks at a Walmart distribution center in Smyrna, Del.
  • Paid leave is becoming a gender neutral conversation… men are caregivers too!
  • And paid leave helps keep women in the workforce which is good for business and good for the U.S. economy.
  • Americans are not ambivalent about whether paid leave helps workers. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 94 percent said it would help families, and two-thirds said it would help the economy.
  • Business leaders and decision makers are asking us to “show them the ROI of paid leave.” Here it is: Research has found that mothers who take paid parental leave are more likely to be working a year later, and less likely to receive public aid. It also improves mothers’ physical and mental health; the duration of breast-feeding; babies’ health and development; and gender equity. When fathers take such leave, research shows, they are more involved in their children’s lives years later; their children are healthier; and mothers have increased earnings and better mental health.

Find the full story here

Paid Leave for a 21st Century Workforce: A National Conversation with DMEC & Employers

What happens when 280 companies get together to talk about the benefits and challenges of paid leave programs? Insightful conversation. Evolving perspectives. Even an emerging consensus.

Earlier this month we at The Paid Leave Project and the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) hosted an interactive, national webinar to discuss a developing workforce trend: paid leave as an important component of building a 21stcentury workforce.

More than 280 organizations nationwide joined the wide-ranging discussion about what’s required to build the business case for paid leave. We were lucky to be joined by two outstanding co-presenters:

  • LeaveLogic: CEO Anna Steffeney made the conversation real by walking through the data that demonstrates the actual business advantages of paid leave programs.
  • Nestlé USA: Veronica Scalzo, manager of benefits strategy and excellence at Nestlé USA, talked about Nestlé’s experience creating a best-in-class parental leave program.

It’s no secret: the environment facing U.S. employers is complex. Legal mandates related to paid leave programs are being proposed at city, state and national levels. Five states and the District of Columbia have already passed paid leave laws, and more than 18 states are actively discussing enacting a law. Employers, especially those who operate across state lines, often have more than one (sometimes up to six) paid leave laws to navigate.

One underlying thesis was confirmed by those attending the webinar: companies know that paid leave will help them attract top talent and keep good employees. But the path to establishing a paid leave program can be vague and complicated.

Companies may initially be deterred by what they think a paid leave program will cost or because they don’t know how to establish metrics to accurately assess the success of a program. Faced with these challenges, leading drivers for adoption often end up being employee demand, industry pressure or a legal mandate.

Yet paid leave programs are becoming increasingly important. Today’s millennials, who are steering the way toward a 21stcentury workforce, demand more workplace flexibility than ever. Companies need to get creative to develop programs that attract top performers and support their bottom-line business objectives.

That’s where The Paid Leave Project and LeaveLogic can both help. We have resources to help companies create paid leave programs that work for them and their employees.

During the webinar, I was honored to share an overview of The Paid Leave Project Playbook, a suite of tools and resources that help employers successfully build or expand their paid leave benefits. Anna Steffeney, CEO of LeaveLogic, spoke about ways to measure the ROI of paid leave, including employee retention, talent attraction and costs. Veronica Scalzo, manager of benefits strategy and excellence at Nestlé USA, shared what Nestlé has learned and the early results the company sees.

I think you will find the discussion interesting: listen to the archived event or access the presentation deck. For additional resources, visit:

My sincere thanks to DMEC and my co-presenters for sparking such an intriguing discussion of how paid leave programs can help shape our 21st century workforce. This is one conversation that is just beginning.