COVID has changed the way we care for each other. More small businesses now support paid family leave. A recent study from Colombia Business School found that as more companies became familiar with paid family leave during the pandemic, their support for it increased over time.

The study took place in the New York and New Jersey area,focusing on data from 539 companies across different sectors from 2016 to 2020.Among employers interviewed in both fall 2019 and fall 2020, those reporting that they were very or somewhat supportive of paid family leave rose by 9.1%, from 61.6% to 70.7%. Companies that were somewhat or very opposed to paid family leave declined by 9.6%, from 20% to 10.4%.

The pandemic has pushed businesses to expand their employee offerings. According to a survey from Kaiser Family Foundation, 37% of workers work at a firm that began offering paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave for the first time or expanded or enhanced those benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Mo Mulla, founder of Parental Questions, says, “Employers are becoming more aware of the benefits to company image and profitability of inclusive family planning policies. Businesses have started to realize that when employees can take care of their families, they deliver higher quality work by focusing on what matters most at home, so being flexible at work leads to a win-win situation for both employer and employee.”

In 2021, Illinois-based distributor HALO (PPAI 106462, D15) added paid family leave to their benefits. Sean Radford, EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer, says, “HALO recognizes the importance of supporting employees as they balance career, childbirth and family life.”

Eligible employees can receive up to six weeks of full pay in Paid Family Leave based on their length of service with the Company. Radford says, “HALO’s Paid Family Leave policy reflects HALO’s desire to attract and retain talented employees by helping them balance their work and family obligations.”

As the largest distributorship in the promotional products industry, HALO undoubtedly has resources that most companies will have difficulty matching in supporting employees’ families. With unemployment lingering near historic lows, however, the competition for talent may force companies of all sizes to do whatever they can to keep up with the largest companies in promo and other industries.

Most workers still don’t have access to paid maternity leave. According to business platform Zippa, only 23% of those working in private industries have access to paid maternity leave. But most American workers support paid family leave. Pew Research found that 82% of Americans say mothers should have paid maternity leave, while 69% support paid paternity leave.

Mulla says, “More parental leave and flexible working schedules will dramatically affect the workforce because it highlights the importance of investing in our human capital. Parents need to maintain their own health to be good parents while also optimizing their productivity at work.”