Paid Family Leave Pays Off

Photo: Maria Cannon, Adobe

We are just days away from the U.S. presidential election and I have mailed my ballot for the very first time since becoming a citizen. There could not be two more different candidates, but the one issue they do agree on is paid family leave - and that's encouraging.

It's hard to believe that the U.S. is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The fact this issue is more front and center is due in part to companies taking initiative and spurring change with their own policies. I am proud Adobe was among the first tech companies to expand leave policies last year. We put this change in motion to help us attract and retain female employees, support working families, and ultimately to contribute to making our workforce more diverse. It went into effect last November, and we're already seeing positive results in the form of heartfelt appreciation from new parents and, most importantly, data that shows we're retaining more women after leave.

Early returns

In fact, nearly 90 percent of women who took maternity leave in the U.S. over the past year returned to Adobe. That's up from 81 percent in 2014. I'd like to see that turn into 100 percent, but I am happy to see we're starting to see improvement.

Beyond the data, our leave program has been an important way to showcase commitment to and support for our employees. It is heartwarming to receive emails sharing how the extra time has been beneficial from a personal and professional perspective.

When Vanessa Schuet, a legal specialist at Adobe, emailed us with news about her new arrival she said, "The extra bonding time with my baby actually made it easier to come back to work since it gave me the extra time to understand my baby's needs and develop a routine. While I had a lot to worry about as a first time mom, I was really happy that I didn't have to worry about my income while bonding with my child."

Her note reinforces that when you can be your best at home, you will be your best at work. Improving family leave is the right thing to do for employees and the business, and we're eager to build on this early progress.

Plans to expand

We've rolled enhanced leave in four countries so far (U.S., India, Australia, Japan) and will be expanding to eight additional countries by year-end. We are targeting locations where we have our largest population of employees, including China, France, Romania, UK, Switzerland, Germany and others. Many of these countries offer partial pay for family leave, but Adobe will work to ensure employees are paid 100 percent while out caring for their family.

Enhancing leave programs is just the start, though. Coming back to work can be challenging and our business moves fast. We're developing a program for returning employees to help with that change and welcome them back. This would enable flexible scheduling options for our employees as they re-enter the work environment.

We all can play a role

Adobe certainly isn't the only company acknowledging this need and changing policies. Companies of all sizes and industries are making the move to expand leave, from Fidelity Investments to Etsy, companies are seeing the value. It's something every organization should strive for. Even if your business can't afford to offer a six-month leave enhancement, every bit counts and it sends a strong message to employees and our government leaders that we can do a better job supporting working families.