The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York has decided that starting this year, we will only accept grant applications from organizations with paid parental leave policies that offer their employees — new mothers and new fathers — at least four weeks of paid leave at full salary.
We are the first foundation in the Jewish and secular communities to establish a criterion of this type. We’re doing it because we believe that to achieve our vision of creating a better world for women and girls in the Jewish community, we need to support and recognize organizations that are providing paid parental leave to their employees.
The grants we give out help fund social change programs that promote economic security, leadership advancement, and health and wellbeing among women and girls in the Jewish community. Since we aim to create social change through a gender lens, we must be part of the solution. The requirement we’re putting in place establishes greater alignment between JWFNY’s values and our work.
For the past five years we have asked our grant applicants to disclose their parental leave policies. The strength of the applicants’ policies played a part in our decision-making, but has not disqualified organizations. Until now.
Our new Invitation to Submit a Concept Letter includes the following eligibility requirement:
Organization must provide a minimum of four (4) weeks of paid parental leave at full salary for new mothers and fathers, which can be linked to minimum tenure of two (2) years. This does not include accrued vacation or sick days; however, employees can apply short-term disability insurance to cover a percentage of salary. The organization is also encouraged, but not required, to have a paid family leave policy that enables employees to take paid time off from work to care for a sick family member.
Despite the many known benefits of parental leave — CNN reviewed more than 20 studies and found that the majority of them say parental leave has a significant positive effect on the health of families — the number one reason organizations give for not offering the benefit is the financial cost. It’s true that without a state- or city-funded paid parental leave policy, a financial cost may likely ensue for the employer. But it’s not as significant as many believe. Recent JWFNY grantee partner A Better Balance published the report Investing in Our Families: The Case for Family Leave Insurance in New York and the Nation, which found that paid parental leave provides an incentive to attract top talent in the field, enhances employee morale, increases loyalty and reduces staff turnover. The long-term benefits greatly outweigh the short-term costs.
Cities and states are slowly and steadily responding to this research by developing their own laws. In April, New York became the fourth state to have a paid family leave law, which will go into effect in 2018. The law will pay 50% of weekly wages for up to eight weeks. The amount will increase over the following three years to 67% of workers’ average weekly wages. We applaud the passing of the law and see it as a necessary step in the right direction. JWFNY’s requirement differs from the New York State law and is more beneficial for the employee, since it will be implemented sooner and requires paid parental leave at full salary for a minimum of four weeks.
We cannot wait for New York State, other states or the country to have paid parental leave laws go into effect. According to the Center for American Progress report Administering Paid Family and Medical Leave, today, only one in five children has a stay-at-home parent, and women represent nearly half the workforce, yet only 12% of employers provide access to any paid parental leave.
Unlike every other developed country in the world, workplace policies in the United States push out employees with care-giving responsibilities. Families are negatively impacted, ultimately leading to a loss for communities and the entire country.
Our mandate — to create a better world for women and girls in the Jewish community — demands that we recognize and reward organizations that offer paid parental leave to their employees. These are the organizations that provide women and their families with the tools they need to thrive. They walk the walk, and we at the JWFNY are proud to walk with them.
Stephanie Blumenkranz is the Assistant Director of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York; Avra Gordis, Advocacy Chair and Board Member of JWFNY; and Nancy Schwartz Sternoff, Board Member of JWFNY and International Convener of the Jewish Women’s Funds.