Facebook Is Leading The Charge For Paid Family Leave In The U.S.

by Christina Marfice
Image via Emma McIntyre/ Getty Images

There’s no law requiring paid family leave in the U.S., but that isn’t stopping Facebook from offering it

The U.S. is shamefully behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to policies that protect workers who need time off. We’re the only developed country that offers zero guaranteed paid leave for new parents — about five dozen other countries in the world are beating us there. The same goes for illness; paid time off for employees who get sick or who need to take care of sick family members is not mandated. Employers can offer it if they want to, but LOL why would they give away money like that? This is America. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

Sure, there’s the Family and Medical Leave Act, which, under very specific circumstances, can grant a worker 12 weeks off to take care of pesky health issues like longterm illness or giving birth, but it’s not available to all workers, and that leave is unpaid, so who can afford that anyway? Realistically, it’s just not that helpful.

For so many decades, politicians have refused to be the ones to take the lead on guaranteeing these kinds of protections for workers. That’s why Sheryl Sandberg’s recent announcement about Facebook’s leave policy is so groundbreaking. At this week’s Makers conference, a gathering of women who are trailblazing in art, politics and business, Sandberg announced that Facebook would be adding to the four months of paid leave that it already offers new moms and dads, offering all its employees six weeks of paid time off to take care of ailing family members; three additional paid days to take care of family members with short-term illness, like children who are sick; and 20 days of paid bereavement leave, as opposed to the 10 it offered previously. All these benefits are available to employees every 12 months.

“This is personal for me,” Sandberg said at the conference. “I lost my husband very suddenly. Facebook provided leave and flexibility, and now we’re doing more.”

Sandberg went in to more detail in an announcement on Facebook, writing, “I’m really proud of Facebook’s commitment. Our parental leave policy is one of the best in the nation… Today, we’re taking another step.”

Sandberg is also challenging other companies to join Facebook in stepping up and taking better care of their own workers.

“People should be able both to work and be there for their families. No one should face this trade-off,” she wrote. “We need public policies that make it easier for people to care for their children and aging parents and for families to mourn and heal after loss. Making it easier for more Americans to be the workers and family members they want to be will make our economy and country stronger. Companies that stand by the people who work for them do the right thing and the smart thing – it helps them serve their mission, live their values, and improve their bottom line by increasing the loyalty and performance of their workforce.”