Is Paid Parental Leave Fair?

A recent survey ( found that 38% of U.S. employers offer paid parental leave and that the average amount of time off offered was 4.1 weeks.

This benefit is being offered more commonly due to weak federal and state laws supporting working families. But, is the benefit fair to those who are either past child-bearing years or for those who choose to not have children?

I think organizations should change the benefit to cover all types of family leave, not just for new parents. Now, I understand we have short-term disability insurance and FMLA to cover “other” life challenges, but FMLA is not paid and STD only covers a portion of salary as opposed to full salary.

The paid leave offered could be used for an employee’s or family member’s illness, to spend time with a dying loved one, to take care of an estate, and so on.

I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is when an employee asks what options are available because their mother or father is dying and only has days or weeks to live, but they have no PTO. And, since they cannot afford to take the time off unpaid, they are unable to spend those last days with their loved one.

Or, how many employees who were battling life-threatening illnesses like cancer have to worry about how they are going to pay their bills while they are going through chemo, radiation, or surgery.

I’m just wondering why companies are favoring new parents over employees who arguably have a much higher need for paid leave. I’m not suggesting we take away paid parental leave because that is a wonderful benefit, but I think we can do better and open the benefit up for other life circumstances.

Morale may also be improved because the co-workers who have to cover the workload for the parents while they are out will now have a much better opportunity to also use the benefit at some point in their careers.

A company’s reputation and retention will only be elevated by catering to all employee ages and diverse backgrounds.

Do you think this benefit should be expanded beyond new parents?