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Parental leave offered to more private-sector workers

Posted at 6:40 PM, Sep 29, 2022

A family addition led to a business change at Fox Valley Tree Care in Winnebago County.

After the company's president, Josh Heuer, became a father, the business added a paid time off benefit for new parents.

"...My wife had two babies, and I realized how important it was to have that benefit, especially for new parents," Heuer said.

"Because there's a lot of stuff that goes on with new babies that you don't expect."

Fox Valley Tree Care added the benefit after the birth of Heuer's first child three years ago.

Men at the company receive two weeks of paid leave; women receive six weeks of paid leave.

More and more private-sector workers in the United States have access to paid leave after the birth of a child.

Nationwide, 23 percent of private-industry workers (including both men and women) had access to the benefit last year, up from seven percent in 2005, according to government data.

Manufacturing companies competing for workers are using the benefit to stand out, said Ann Franz, director of the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance.

In northeast Wisconsin, 17 percent of manufacturers surveyed offer paid parental leave, said Ann Franz, director of the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance.

She estimated that one percent of local manufacturers offered the benefit five years ago.

"...I really think it's a new phenomenon," said Franz, who estimates that 30 percent of local manufacturers will offer the benefit in three years.

She said the benefit's availability is a reaction to the worker shortage, and is offered to encourage women to apply, while being a new and different benefit for men.

"...[D]uring the pandemic, more women left the workforce than men," Franz said.

"To get those women back into the workforce, companies are looking at, 'Let's pay them while they're gone.'"

Voith, which builds products for paper mills at a factory in Appleton, offers the benefit to the company's workers.

"Right here in this facility alone in the last couple months, we've had two machinists take paid parental leave to spend time with their families, which is very exciting for us," said Amie Ziebell, Voith vice president of human resources for North America.

The company began to offer the benefit in 2018; mothers and fathers can receive two weeks of paid leave after a child's birth, adoption, or foster child placement, Ziebell said.

Ziebell was unsure if the benefit effects recruitment or retention of employees, but said workers who have taken the paid leave are thankful to have it.

Asked how the offering benefits the company, "The benefit... is really making sure that our employees' needs are being met," and builds stronger relationships with the company's employees, Ziebell said.

The availability of paid leave is not the only change over time when it comes to families and work.

Before and during 1975, 7 percent of first-time fathers in the U.S. took some form leave after their child's birth, but between 2016 and 2019, more than 65 percent took such a leave, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.