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Currently, only the largest corporations in the United States provide their employees with the paid maternity leave and with the opportunities to use the proposed on-site child care. Furthermore, the cases of providing paternity leaves are still few in comparison with the situation in such European countries as Sweden, Germany, and Iceland, where the number of provided paternity leaves is almost equal to the number of maternity leaves (Shaw, 2013, p. 352).
Challenges associated with maintaining the work-and-life balance are usually experienced by employees who have or plan to have children. As a result, these employees often face the necessity of choosing between the happiness of having a child and their career because of being deprived of opportunities to achieve the balance in planning their personal and professional life (Feierabend & Staffelbach, 2015; Shaw, 2013). From this point, it is necessary to discuss the approaches followed in the U.S. companies in order to guarantee the work-and-life balance for their employees in terms of proposing policies on the maternity leave and care for children.
The Work-And-Life Balance
The balance that is usually desired to be achieved by employees in the U.S. companies is associated with avoiding the necessity to choose between the family life and career progress. Thus, a young employee is oriented to have flexible work hours, he expects that the company can use the advantageous telecommuting systems, and he expects that the company will provide paid sick leaves even if the maternity leaves are not mentioned in the firm’s policy. In this case, it is possible to expect the ideal balance between the employee’s career and family life.
However, only few large U.S. organizations and the minority of small businesses can provide an employee with conditions necessary for maintaining the desired work-and-life balance (Shaw, 2013, p. 351). As a result, it is possible to claim that the approaches followed by modern U.S. organizations cannot be discussed as appropriate to achieve the discussed balance, and they are not attractive for many employees who need to choose between their families and careers.
The main reason is that modern corporations focus on increasing their employees’ productivity and decreasing the operations’ costs (Pyper, 2006; Shaw, 2013). As a consequence, companies are not interested in providing employees with flexible hours and paid long leaves. Employers are also not interested in spending costs on organizing on-site child care services or integrating innovative systems for communication with employees (Feierabend & Staffelbach, 2015).
Therefore, many U.S. companies only begin to revise workplace practices and retention approaches in their strategic plans. However, this approach is important because the level of the employees’ dissatisfaction is negatively correlated with the level of productivity (Feierabend & Staffelbach, 2015). It is important to state that in order to reduce stress and dissatisfaction, the condition to guarantee the work-and-life balance for employees should be met.
Paid Maternity Leave
Following the pattern of providing paid maternity leaves for employee in 160 countries, it is possible to propose the similar strategy for the companies in the United States (Shaw, 2013, p. 335). This requirement is important in order to focus on increasing the job satisfaction of employees, to provide them with the feeling of security, and to increase the employees’ commitment to the organization (Beauregard & Henry, 2009).
Furthermore, referring to the example of Sweden, where the costs associated with the paid leaves are shared by the organization and the government, it is important to guarantee the governmental support to the U.S. organizations in terms of providing the paid maternity leaves (Shaw, 2013, p. 351-352). As a result, having the funding provided by the government, the companies can give the necessary financial support to the employees while achieving their sustainability goals (Shaw, 2013). In their turn, the government can contribute to developing the effective social policy.
If the provision of the paternity leaves becomes the requirement for the U.S. companies, it is possible to expect positive changes in terms of the levels of employees’ commitment and retention. Employees should not choose between developing their family life and career, but they can make similar choices in their family if they have the opportunity to receive the maternity or paternity leave. There are situations when women hold higher job positions than their husbands, and it can be more rewarding for them to use the advantages of the paternity leave (Pyper, 2006, p. 7).
In this case, employees should have the right to make important decisions regarding the distribution of roles in their families regardless the factor of gender. The positive results of this approach are the focus on the employees’ work-and-life balance, the possibility to retain irreplaceable talents, the possibility for companies to improve the social responsibility practices, and the possibility for the authorities to improve the social environments while focusing on interests of satisfied employees.
Specialized Organizational Arrangements for Child Care
If an employee decides to combine the career with the provision of the child care, he or she demonstrates the willingness to work for the company in spite of life situations. Moreover, this employee also demonstrates high levels of work commitment. The other cause is the need, and the provision of more opportunities for an employee to perform duties and receive compensation is required in this case (Shaw, 2013, p. 335). As a result, a company should provide specific on-site or off-site child care services for their employees who have children.
According to Feierabend and Staffelbach, when such arrangements are organized and services are provided, it is possible to expect that both employers and employees will benefit from the initiative to invest in the child care because employees will be able to spend more time and resources on working, and employers will be able to increase the overall productivity (Feierabend & Staffelbach, 2015, p. 2).
Today, organizations can propose their employees different child care services, and the company chooses a specific variant depending on its costs, on the time necessary for the development, and on its role in increasing the employees’ performance and productivity (Payne, Cook, & Diaz, 2011, p. 226). Therefore, in order to address the needs and interests of parents efficiently, companies should take several steps.
The first step is the determination of the purpose for the arrangement because in spite of providing the child care, the proposed on-site and off-site services organized by the company can differ significantly in terms of specific functions. The second step is the financial and resource planning that is necessary in order to predict costs associated with the arrangement’s development (Payne et al., 2011, p. 226). The third step is the process of purchasing the necessary resources and materials and the development of the accommodation.
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The fourth step is the direct organization of the services (Feierabend & Staffelbach, 2015, p. 4). While completing all these steps, organizations need to plan their investments and list the services depending on the employees’ needs because the proposed day child care should address the criteria of availability and convenience (Feierabend & Staffelbach, 2015; Payne et al., 2011). The main task of the employer is to save the time for the employee and resources for the company. As a result, the location of the child care should be properly planned in order to decrease the parental dependability and increase the feeling of satisfaction in employees.
Organizations’ Obligations toward Employees
An employer should be discussed as having an obligation to provide employees with the necessary flexibility in order for them to be able to combine their career and life goals. In spite of the fact that many companies follow traditional views regarding the organization of the employees’ work, the focus on flexibility in the corporate environment is the modern tendency because the labor market is competitive and professionals or talents have the opportunity to choose the appropriate job position in the company where the leaders focus on flexibility (Beauregard & Henry, 2009, p. 10).
Employees need not only time but also the managerial support in order to balance their career and family life. If employees have no such resources and opportunities, they prefer to choose another employer who can provide them with the required flexibility or has the appropriate family-friendly policies (Pyper, 2006, p. 6). The main obstacle in this case is the employers’ concerns regarding the costs of the flexibility programs’ implementation.
From this point, if the company provides its employees with more conditions to make their life balanced and address their basic needs, such company responds to the requirements associated with the social responsibility policies. It is important to note that employers are responsible for creating the appropriate conditions for the work, and they are also responsible for contributing to the social progress of the community (Shaw, 2013).
When businesses focus on the factor of flexibility, it is possible to expect that they will become more successful in retaining talents, saving resources, and developing innovative strategies. According to Beauregard and Henry, if the principle of the work-and-life balance is violated, the rate of absenteeism and turnover among employees can increase significantly, while decreasing the overall level of productivity (Beauregard & Henry, 2009, p. 10). Therefore, it is more beneficial for employers to focus on the employees’ needs and to expand their vision of the social responsibility.
It is possible to state that the U.S. companies follow the most inflexible policies among the developed countries in terms of providing the paid maternity leave or addressing the work-and-life balance needs of their employees. Much attention should be paid to developing policies according to which employers can become obliged to provide paid maternity and paternity leaves and organize the child care services for the parents working in the company.
The modern labor market can be discussed as rather competitive, and businesses are interested in preserving their talents and addressing their needs in order to increase their performance and productivity. As a result, the factor of flexibility in terms of the appropriate work-and-life balance should also be addressed.
Beauregard, A., & Henry, L. (2009). Making the link between work-life balance practices and organizational performance. Human Resource Management Review, 19(1), 9-22.
Feierabend, A., & Staffelbach, B. (2015). Crowding out reciprocity between working parents and companies with corporate childcare. Human Resource Management, 12(1), 1-10.
Payne, S., Cook, A., & Diaz, I. (2011). Understanding childcare satisfaction and its effect on workplace outcomes: The convenience factor and the mediating role of work-family conflict. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 85(2), 225–244.
Pyper, W. (2006). Balancing career and care. Perspectives on Labour and Income, 7(11), 5-15.
Shaw, W. (2013). Business ethics. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.