The Power of Parental Leave

Levi Strauss & Co.
February 2, 2018

Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law that guarantees employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year.

In the 25 years since FMLA became the law of the land, the country’s workforce, family make-up, jobs and economy have changed and we recognize the need for a federal paid leave plan to respond to that change. That is why Levi Strauss & Co. supports the passage of the Family Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), because access to paid family and medical leave is both the right and the smart thing to do for business and for workers.

We’re proud to stand with those who support this legislation as it not only aligns with our company’s paid parental leave policy, but it is also a shared belief that time with new family is invaluable. Our own Julie Rose shares her personal account of the impact paid parental leave had on her.

As Julie Rose tells it, it wasn’t the time off so much as the support of her colleagues that made the biggest impact on her during one of the most incredibly difficult times of her life.

Rose, an executive recruiting specialist with our Talent Acquisition team, was just 20 weeks pregnant when she left the office one afternoon for a routine check-up, a half-completed expense report still open on her laptop pending her return.

“I was not expecting to be told ‘You are not going back to work,’” she recalled. Due to a complication, Rose was put on immediate bed rest, and just five weeks later she gave birth to her daughter, who was born at 25 weeks weighing a mere 1-pound, 9-ounces. For Rose and her wife, Lynda, the three months that followed would involve extensive trips to the NICU and more time away from work than they had fathomed. But thanks to the paid parental leave policy in place here at Levi Strauss & Co., that time away was never an issue or concern for Rose, her family or her team.

We recognize how critical it is for all parents – including same-sex couples and single parents – to have adequate time to bond with their newest family additions. Last year, we expanded that parental leave policy, offering all hourly and salaried U.S. employees with benefits eight weeks of paid time off. Our policy covers parents of all genders at the time of a child’s birth, adoption or placement of a foster child in an employee’s care.

The U.S. currently ranks last among developed countries when it comes to paid parental leave allowances, making the financial consequences of taking unpaid time off unrealistic for many new parents. In fact, it’s been widely reported that 25 percent of mothers return to work less than two weeks after giving birth, because they simply can’t afford the time off. Yet, we know that welcoming a child after a birth, an adoption or the commitment to foster is a seismic event for any family. New bonds need to be formed and there are so many immediate needs that require a parent’s undivided attention. That time is essential to all families, and it shouldn’t be marred by fears of not making ends meet in the meantime.

Our company’s leave policy matches our belief that bonding time with a new child is critical for all parents and all families. It’s the right thing to do and the smart thing for business.

For Rose, the smartest thing she could do for her family was to carve out the time she needed to be there for them – something she was able to do with the support of her company. And today, her daughter is 7 years old – and thriving.

She’s also proud of Levi Strauss & Co.’s commitment to LGBTQ equality – both in how it supports employees and its advocacy supporting equality and nondiscrimination.

“We have such an amazing legacy when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community, from our support of issues like marriage equality to our efforts around Pride,” says Rose. She also lauds our inclusive employee benefits that allow her to have her wife, a stay-at-home mom, on her insurance. “This company really does put its employees – all employees – first.”

In 1992, Levi Strauss & Co. was the first Fortune 500 company to offer benefits to same sex couples and in 2007 it was the only California business to file an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court supporting same-sex marriage. In 2013, LS&Co. joined the “friend of the court” briefs for both the United States v. Windsor case on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Hollingsworth v. Perry case on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8.

We are proud to be at the forefront of the U.S. apparel industry with respect to LGBTQ rights as well as paid parental leave for all, and we welcome this opportunity to reset the standard and inspire others to follow.

This post was originally published on the Human Rights Campaign blog.