If you’ve been anywhere near social media over the past month (and if you haven’t, congrats on somehow pulling that off), chances are you’ve seen the viral #ShowUsYourLeave campaign started by TheSkimm. It has seriously been everywhere, and for good reason. The campaign does exactly what its name suggests: invites companies to publicly show everyone their leave policies. It’s a simple prompt that, as it’s bloomed across social media, has revealed not just what individual companies are offering their employees in the way of leave support, but also more macro trends in workplaces overall.
Let’s rewind a bit and take a look at where this campaign came from. It started when co-founder of TheSkimm, Danielle Weisberg, had a child. More specifically, when that child was a year old, Weisberg found herself sitting on the floor with him when she learned that paid family leave had been cut from President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better package. She couldn’t believe that, as usual, support for parents was being discarded as an expendable concern. She took to — where else? — Instagram to express her frustration.
“I was lucky enough to benefit from working at a company that has a generous paid family leave policy (shoutout @theskimm ) A policy we built together with the women leaders, parents and future parents here at theSkimm. This should not be unique.
As a working mom, a CEO, an employer, and a US citizen, it’s disgraceful that the US does not have paid family leave. To continue to be a competitive, modern, and at all equitable society – we need to get our shit together when it comes to how we support parents.”
The post resonated in a big way. As a team who lives and breathes leave management every day, we’re not surprised! According to Paidleave.us, one in four mothers in America returns to work just 10 days after giving birth, and the U.S. is the only industrialized country without a national paid family leave policy. Only seven states have paid family and medical leave programs available for eligible workers. This puts all the power over governing family leave (and all other kinds of leave, like medical or bereavement) in the hands of individual employers — something that historically does not work out in workers’ favor.
Soon after Weisberg took her feelings to Instagram, there was a growing conversation happening in the comments — parents were recounting their experiences of trying to have kids within the leave structures of their companies. Some workplaces made it wonderfully easy, while others had such a lack of allowances for parental leave that the parents were put into impossible situations. One takeaway was clear: in the absences of federally mandated and subsidized paid family leave, companies’ policies varied wildly. There was no real standard that everyone hovered around.
And then the conversation turned outward, from workers comparing stories amongst themselves to TheSkimm putting out a call for accountability among employers: it was time for companies to broadcast their leave policies.
We, of course, were watching closely. A mega-viral trend on social media — about leave policies? Literally a dream come true for us. As more and more companies started posting their leave policies (including us, naturally), we were taking notes. And we started clocking some takeaways. Here’s what we learned:
Less focus on “maternity leave” and more on “parental leave”
When most people think about “maternity leave”, they picture a pregnant woman waddling out of her office on her due date and come back 12 weeks later with bags under her eyes and dozens of cute newborn pics to show off. In reality, that is one of many scenarios in which an employee needs to take time off work to be a parent — and finally, more companies’ leave policies are reflecting reality instead of ‘90s movies.
#ShowUsYourLeave posts featured a lot of companies specifying that their parental leave policies accounted for non-birthing parents, adoption, surrogacy — and there’s increasingly more flexibility about when time is taken off (i.e., an employee doesn’t have to take all of their allotted parental leave at once). We love to see it.
Speaking of parenthood, leave policies are looking at the whole picture
Something we saw showing up with refreshing frequency in companies’ policy rundowns? Considerations (either in the form of time off or spending allowances) for fertility treatments, like IVF and egg freezing, and miscarriage. It’s not shocking that in a world without universal paid family leave and comprehensive childcare support that most companies wouldn’t have paid leave to recover and grieve following the loss of a pregnancy, but it’s still pretty wild that we’re just recently starting to see this kind of employee support in a more widespread way.
Unlimited paid time off (PTO) is on the rise
Just a few years ago, the concept of giving employees “unlimited PTO” seemed radical. But enough companies — mostly startups — did it and the data told a somewhat surprising story: https://blog.namely.com/unlimited-vacation-policy, not more. We say “somewhat surprising” because we don’t really believe that most employees are actively trying to scam as much free PTO as they can, and it’s pretty nice to see the data back this up. And it seems that a lot more companies are realizing there are a ton of upsides to giving employees extra flexibility and agency when it comes to structuring how and when they take time off.
Remote working accommodations are big
We’re not just talking about giving employees the option to work from home sometimes — WFH benefits are now looking like permanent optional WFH status in roles where it’s possible, flexible working hours, allowances for buying home office stuff, and set guidelines on expectations around email, Slack, and virtual meetings. That last one is particularly amazing to see — it seriously helps with setting good work/life boundaries and knowing what kind of response time is expected at your workplace.
More variety in PTO categories
Who among us hasn’t been in this position: you need to take a day (or more) off work, but not for a reason that fits into the categories of sick, injured, or vacation. Are those really the only valid reasons to take time off work? Of course not. And companies’ policies are finally starting to reflect that. In #ShowUsYourLeave posts, we saw leave policies that listed a wider range of PTO categories, like mental health, “recharging”, and volunteering days, in addition to sick days, vacation, and holidays.
Even if companies previously would let a generous range of reasons fall under the broad categories that were technically permitted for PTO, there’s very real power in spelling it out explicitly. There’s a huge difference for employees between thinking “I can probably get this time off approved” and knowing that their company acknowledges and supports all the reasons they might need to take time off.
That speaks directly to the hill we’ll always die on: a good leave policy isn’t just about what you give employees when they need to take leave — it’s about how you make them feel the rest of the time and what kind of safety net they enjoy the comfort of knowing they have.
An overall emphasis on wellbeing — with benefits to back it up
Beyond the kind of mental health perks we’ve seen cropping up in recent years (think: free subscriptions to meditation apps, etc.), so many #ShowUsYourLeave posts told the story of companies taking a meatier approach to taking care of their employees’ overall wellness — mentally, physically, and socially.
Care work is being considered in a bigger way
The fact that workers often are primary care providers for people other than their kids isn’t new — but it is being newly accounted for in more companies’ policies and benefits. Whether it’s caring for kids or elder family members, companies are starting to offer benefits like back-up care and other accommodations that give employees the support they need to balance their ability to work with their care responsibilities.
Creativity and customization is everywhere
This is undoubtedly our favorite trend we saw in #ShowUsYourLeave. Leave policies (and all the related policies that touch on leave-adjacent issues) will never be a one-size-fits-all game. You already know that. It’s about reflecting the true needs of your company and the people who work for it. It’s about stepping up to answer those needs and to provide robust support for your employees’ whole lives that will allow them to do their best work. That looks a little different for every company. And we saw so much awareness of that in this campaign.
For example: Something like offering overnight breastmilk shipping for nursing parents who have to travel for work might be totally pointless for some teams, but for another team, it might solve for a pain point that’s common among employees or sending the right message to the kind of employees a company is trying to attract. Across the board, we’re seeing a lot of companies demonstrating policy-level awareness of just what their employees want and need. Let’s hope more companies can keep this energy going forward.