More than 33 percent of American women do not return to work after giving birth, according to a 2017 report on motherhood by the health data company Ovia. Human resource (HR) experts say that it can be hard to retain female employees after they become mothers, which is why companies are offering a variety of perks for working parents, such as discounts on cribs and free breast milk shipping for mothers on business trips. Julie Li, senior director of people operations at the HR software company Namely, says, “Offering parental benefits is part of a broad movement around diversity and more women staying in the workforce. Companies have realized they weren’t providing the support they needed to make sure those individuals are successful.” Mid-size companies are also starting to offer generous maternity benefits. Dan Spaulding, chief people officer at Zillow – which ships breast milk to nursing mothers traveling for work – says, “These benefits are a signal we are a workplace that listens to the needs of our employees, and we think that’s a differentiator in building relationships with candidates. Year-over-year, we continue to have more women apply to Zillow.” Outdoor retailer Patagonia allows mothers who are still nursing to bring a caregiver on business trips. “When women are able to be at work, be present and not drop out of the workforce, they have been able to perform and advance with their peers at the same level,” says Dean Carter, Patagonia’s vice president of human resources. “We have a lot of women who are in leadership positions, and we want to help them be moms and get work done.” The perk has helped 95 percent of Patagonia’s employees who take maternity leave return to the company, according to Carter. If you’re thinking about readjusting your company’s policies but don’t have the resources to offer similar perks, Namely’s Li says to focus simply on offering flexibility with both mothers and fathers who are returning to work after having a child. “Both retention and attraction are going to benefit greatly from all these changes in policies,” Li says. “It’s important to build a culture where you really value employees and make sure they are well supported.”
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