U.S. Firms Lag in Assisting Employees with Work/Life Balance
Companies in the United States do well in handling problems of discrimination in the workplace, but they don’t rate quite as well in aiding employees’ family life.
That was the result of a recent study that compared U.S. companies with other firms in 173 countries on their guidelines for working families. The study used information from a range of sources – government, private, and academic.
The U.S. came out well when compared to other countries in right-to-work policies, and in programs that reduced poverty in the elderly.
However, the U.S. did not fare as well in comparisons of business support for employees’ personal lives. Almost 200 countries offered paid leave to women who were pregnant. But the United States is one of only five nations that do not offer paid leave – the other four being Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. According to the study, more than 100 countries allow women to breastfeed and almost 100 give them paid breaks to do it. Some 65 countries ensure paid paternity leave. However, the United States offers none of these options.
More than 130 countries require a paid yearly leave, and of those, more than 120 require a minimum of two weeks leave. More than 130 countries have regulations that cover the number of hours a person can work, and 50 have government required wage differentials for evening and night work. But there are no regulations on any of these areas in the United States.
Almost 50 countries have regulations that allow workers to take a leave of absence for marriage or funerals. And an additional 145 countries have laws which allow employees to take paid sick leave. Almost 80 countries give benefits for a minimum of 26 weeks for illness. The United States allows only unpaid leave for severe illness through the Family Medical Leave Act, but the Act does not apply to all workers.
The results of the study are important, according to the researchers, because of the impact these programs have on children. When companies offer paid leave for employees to have babies or to raise their children, it helps to improve the children’s health because parents are there to bond with the children and care for them. With paid leave, the family’s financial situation is also better. This has an advantage for employers as well, resulting in less turnover and greater productivity and job satisfaction, researchers said.
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