Do you, by chance, offer your employees “Paw-ternity” leave?

More seriously, how about NICU leave?

With the ever-increasing reality that the federal government will offer no lifeline to streamline the ever-growing list of states mandating employee paid leave, employers have decided to take the lead, leading to a new wave of creative leave benefits to attract and retain talent.

Employers are on a quest to perfectly meld employee physical and mental health as well as financial wellness to offer benefits that lead to an emotionally, socially, and financially healthy workforce. This makes sense, since a recent report indicated that a whopping 60% of employees said that mental health benefits will factor into selecting their next job.

Mental Health Leave Benefits Are Here to Stay [Not to Mention, They Are Freaking Necessary]

Leave to care for one’s own mental health is increasingly gaining momentum in the American workplace. In its 2024 “Leave of Absence and Workplace Accommodation Forecast,” AbsenceSoft, a leading cloud-based platform built to manage and track FMLA, STD, and LTD leaves as well as ADA accommodations, surveyed HR professionals who cited “managing mental health” as the most common reason cited for leave from work.

Think about that.

Mental health tops pregnancy, illness or injury, and caregiver leave as the most-commonly requested need for leave. Don’t believe me? See AbsenceSoft’s survey results below:

Parental Leave is Yesterday’s News; Others Take It Up a Notch with NICU Leave

For the mom-founded and women-led infant formula manufacturer, Bobbie, regular parental leave wasn’t enough, though they could have stopped there and been a wild success, at least by American business standards. After all, in addition to 16 weeks of paid parental leave, the Company offers another 36 weeks of unpaid leave to either parent if they wish to take it. And then, when you need to transition back, the Company pays for this time, too.

But Bobbie didn’t stop there.

If an employee’s child is admitted to the NICU at or shortly after birth, the employee is entitled to up to 16 additional weeks of paid leave. Did you suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth? Bobbie offers 15 days off in these life-altering instances as well.

What’s even more amazing is that Bobbie offers its entire parental leave benefit policy online for all of us to see. Get your copy here, then go make some changes within your own workplace.

Bereavement Leave is a Must

Thanks to bereavement leave champions like Joyal Mulheron and advocacy organizations such as Evermore, we are finally seeing a breakthrough in paid leave benefits for bereavement. It’s a long time coming for what should seem like a basic employee right in every workplace. Anecdotally speaking, paid bereavement leave and meaningful additional time off work to deal with the loss of a family member or close friend has picked up a tremendous amount of steam in the past five years.

The key next step? A federal bereavement leave law. Though a host of new states have enacted (unpaid) bereavement leave laws, a change in federal law seemingly is the only way to etch this benefit in stone once and for all.

Is Paw-Ternity or Fur-Ternity Leave Really a Thing?

In a webinar I conducted last fall with my friend Angel Bennett, Assistant Vice President, Leave and ADA Solutions at Unum, we both agreed “fur-ternity” leave made our hearts happy.

But this kind of leave is nothing to growl at. In an era where Generation Z is making its work-personal life balance needs known, leave to bond with our furry friends has increasingly made its way onto the paid leave benefits charts, notable enough for this Generation X, Golden Retriever lover to take note.

theSkimm Provides a Public Database of Paid Leave Family and Leave Benefits

In 2022, theSkimm, a media company, unveiled as part of the Company’s #ShowUsYourLeave initiative a database of the policies of 480+ companies, including American Express, Etsy, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, Zoom and more, all of whom are making their parental and paid leave policies open to the public. The resource is a free excel spreadsheet that allows the public to search and compare these leave benefits across industries.

If you need even more paid leave benefit ideas, access theSkimm database here.

Paid Leave Benefits Actually Makes Employers More Money

If your employees’ emotional, social, and financial well-being is not enough, providing paid leave benefits is worth it simply because it actually makes employers more money.

As Lori Welty, SVP, Product Compliance for FINEOS, notes in her 2024 benefits forecast, “companies that implemented paid leave yielded 4.6% greater revenue and 6.8% greater profit for each full-time employee.” The reality is this: not providing these critical paid leave benefits, as Lori notes, causes a huge leakage in profits.

If this ain’t enough to motivate you, perhaps you need to take a sabbatical, yet another benefit trend.

Hat tip to Orli Cotel, a highly-experienced and thoughtful paid leave champion, who offered her thoughts with me on paid leave benefits trends.