, ,

Our credo at my workplace is “Speak up! If it’s not right, we’ll change it.”  This is why I am writing to Jane Doe (the HRG at my location), Jane Doe 2 (HR Generalist Functional Leader), and other members of the HR team to ask that our maternity policy be revaluated. I believe that XYZ should offer more paid leave to new parents. I believe we should extend these benefits to both of the parents. I also firmly believe that XYZ would be a stronger firm for making these changes. We will stay competitive in the industry with decreased turnover and more young people (especially women) wanting to work here. An amended policy would show proof of our company’s deepest values as evidenced in the “We care” motto.

This is the slightly amended first paragraph of the three page letter I wrote to the HR team at my company. In a previous post, I reported how our current parental leave policy is insufficient and behind the times. I don’t expect a miracle with this letter. Sure I daydream that after rounds of meetings and negotiations, the policy will be changed and I’ll be honored in a formal ceremony at our annual meeting. Even if that doesn’t happen, I’m proud that I actually took the time, did the research, wrote different versions and came up with something to share with our HR team. So many people hear that their company or their city or their school system doesn’t offer what they think should be offered. They just nod their heads like recalcitrant sheep, hunch their backs and shuffle back thinking, “Dum dee dum, guess I’m out of luck.” WAKE UP PEOPLE!! TRY and make a difference!! Sure maybe nothing will change at my company but maybe something will. At the end of the day, I know that I tried. I know that I spoke up. I know that the world and all its laws are not immutable. If you want change, you have to ask for it.

Here are a few snippets from my letter.

The current XYZ maternity leave policy is insufficient. It is below the standards of other businesses in our industry. Currently the only benefit that staff members receive is a fraction of our pay (short-term disability) for one month, and that is after using two weeks of vacation time.  Yes, XYZ does comply with federal mandate that employees be granted six months of unpaid leave and it offers one month of leave paid at 50 percent. However, most of us outside of management cannot afford unpaid leave at all, and some of our lowest paid employees cannot afford to take advantage of the month paid at 50 percent either.

Out of 181 nations studied by Harvard University, only Papau New Guinea, Swaziland, and the U.S. don’t guarantee paid leave with compensation. That means 178 nations have more supportive policies than the U.S.! Countries like Haiti, Belize, El Salvador, Chile, and Canada have better maternity leave. The reason I point this out is because it shouldn’t be consolation that XYZ offers all that is required by federal law when, compared to the rest of the world, our government’s maternal policies are tragically inadequate. XYZ is in a position to offer more than what is mandated by the government. After all we are one of FORTUNE magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”  We’re proud of how many women partners are at the firm. Yet, we’re behind the times when it comes to offering paid maternity leave.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I looked at [the policies of our competitors]. I thought they would have better paid leave. I thought I could point that out and it would help my case, and I was disappointed to see I couldn’t. However, we shouldn’t have to wait for everyone else to improve their policies before we play catch up. There is also the option of leading the pack on this issue. There is the choice to set a new standard for maternity benefits and paid parental leave among accounting firms similar in scope to XYZ. This is an opportunity to change our policies for the benefit of women and families.

As a company the question about the cost of better coverage has to be phrased the right way. It’s not: will our bottom line let us offer more paid leave? The real question is, do our policies match up to our philosophies? Although the XYZ philosophy can be summarized by the Golden Rule, XYZ‘s “important principles include fairness; doing everything reasonable for the individual up to the point of harming the team; helping the individual to become all that he or she is capable of becoming … and doing what is right for the right reasons.” Enhancing XYZ‘s maternity benefits to include more paid leave for primary and secondary caregivers is the right thing to do. I can only hope the people at XYZ who have the power to influence those changes agree as well. Let’s not wait for the other firms to improve their policies. Let’s lead the pack.