1 in 4 women go back to work less than 2 weeks after giving birth because the vast majority of Americans (86%) have no paid leave.
As we continue to celebrate and support moms for all that they do, we’ve partnered with Paid Leave US to transform the workplace, public policy and culture so that families can receive care when it matters most, especially when welcoming a new bundle of joy to the family.
This op-ed was shared on Medium.com.
Business leaders don’t often talk about their families. We’re taught to keep work and home separate and to try and create a magical “balance” between the two.
We come from very different backgrounds — Cassandra as a health and wellness entrepreneur, advocate for childhood nutrition and mother of three who grew up in Southern California, and John, father of four, and former CEO of Annie’s who has been in the food business for three decades. But for both of us, family is everything.
Along with our co-founders Ari Raz and Jennifer Garner of Once Upon a Farm, a fresh baby and kid food company, we knew from the start that we had an opportunity to create a workplace where family can come first — not just in our products, but with company policies that enable our employees to be there with their families in the moments that matter most.
This is all too rare in the United States, where talk about family values is not always matched by policies that truly value families. We are the only industrial country in the world without a national paid family leave policy. One in four moms in the U.S. currently goes back to work just two weeks after childbirth, and most dads don’t have even a single day of paid family leave.
What’s more, too many families are thrown into bankruptcy each year because they had to provide care for an aging parent or a family member with cancer, or other critical family caregiving needs.
People across the country are working hard to make ends meet, yet our country fails to provide the support they need to manage the demands of job and family, and that businesses and our economy need in to thrive.
We can, and must, do better for our families.
As business leaders, we’re doing our part by providing twelve weeks of paid parental leave to all of our employees at Once Upon a Farm, six weeks of caregiving leave to help care for an aging parent, or a family member with cancer or other serious illness, and up to six weeks paid leave when an employee is unable to return to work because of a serious health condition, including recovery from childbirth. Our policy effectively extends 18 weeks of paid family and medical leave for new moms.
But it’s time to think bigger, to go beyond what any single employer can do. 114 million people in this country still don’t have any paid family leave at all. This week, Congress is holding a hearing on paid family leave, and as parents and employers, we urge our leaders to take action. It’s time for national paid family leave that will help everyone be there for their families in the moments that matter most.
One of our core values at Once Upon a Farm is to fight for and support efforts to drive positive social change for the benefit of parents, kids and families. We believe paid family leave is an issue with clear benefits to society that are worth fighting for. We’re proud to be working with Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US) to strongly support the implementation of comprehensive national legislation and are hopeful elected leaders will see the significant positive benefits to our society and economy from implementation of such policy.
Paid parental leave has critical health benefits for both parents and babies: study after study shows that it improves babies’ health outcomes, increases breastfeeding, leads to better mental health for parents, and even leads to a significant reduction in infant mortality. And it’s also good for business, boosting recruitment and retention, and creating work environments where everyone feels valued.
We’ve experienced this personally in our own workplace. When we announced our new paid family leave policy, the reaction from our employees was overwhelmingly positive. We are a team of parents—amongst our 35 employees, we have 20 children under the age of six. And since our announcement, we’ve had four new babies join our growing Once Upon a Farm family. Our employees are taking the time they deserve with their little ones and will come back to work feeling supported by our team.
And this isn’t just true for our company. The state of California, where our company is based, has had a statewide paid family leave insurance program for ten years. After a decade of paid leave in California, 90% of businesses said that paid family leave had a positive (or at least neutral) effect on their company. It’s time to grow the successes of the California program into a national insurance program that will help all families.
As entrepreneurs, we know that many small business owners feel they simply can’t afford to provide the paid time off that they know their employees need and deserve, even as twenty of the largest employers in the U.S. expanded their paid family leave policies last year. Creating a national paid family leave insurance program will help level the playing field for small businesses so that all workplaces can afford to give their employees the time they need.
Being a parent is one of the most rewarding yet challenging jobs on the planet. The two of us have faced many, many professional challenges and we can both say that none of them compare to the work of parenting. We need to create a culture that supports working families in every way possible — and our leaders should start with paid family leave.
Returning to work? Check out these tips from our Co-Founder Cassandra on returning to work from maternity leave.