Feb 2, 2023 - Business

Tyson and Walmart expand parental leave

Illustration of a stork carrying a bag of money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Benefits for workers at two of Northwest Arkansas' largest employers are growing more generous.

The latest: Springdale-based Tyson Foods publicly announced Tuesday that the company began offering eight weeks of paid leave starting Jan. 1 to new mothers and two weeks of paid leave to employees whose spouses or partners recently gave birth.

  • Previously, new parents had to apply for short-term disability under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Tyson spokesperson Kelly Hellbusch told Axios.
  • Meanwhile, Walmart's new policy expands paid leave for salaried employees from six weeks to 12, spokesperson Jimmy Carter told Axios. Full-time hourly associates and truck drivers will continue to receive six weeks of paid parental leave. The policy went into effect Wednesday.

The big picture: Paid family leave has been a topic of heightened concern for lawmakers and employers since the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that inability to work by parents or caregivers can negatively impact companies and the economy, Axios' Emily Peck writes.

State of play: The United States is one of few countries in the world that does not guarantee paid family leave to new mothers. Among those countries that do offer paid leave, the average length is 29 weeks, according to The New York Times.

By the numbers: About 24% of private-sector workers in the U.S. had access to any paid family leave in 2022, up from 11% in 2012, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • And higher-paid employees are more likely to have access. About 12% of low-income workers, who typically struggle more to afford to take unpaid time off, have access to paid leave.

What to watch: Democratic lawmakers are currently working on a legislative package establishing a federal paid leave plan and FMLA expansion.

  • Reality check: With omnipresent recession fears and a political fight over the debt ceiling looming, the idea that Congress will pass a momentous bill expanding the social safety net seems like a stretch, Peck writes.

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