Chances are, if you frequent our blog, then you’re a part of, or familiar with, the creative industry. If this rings true, then you’re also likely aware that it’s no secret the creative industry does not have the best reputation for work/life balance. A quick search in Google will reveal dozens of articles that report on the subject.
At ustwo, we’ve strived for years to challenge this mentality. We’ve openly written about encouraging our employees to take on side projects, consistently promote the importance of work/life balance internally, and firmly believe in putting our employees and their families first, no matter what. Unfortunately, not all industry companies are created equal.
A Brief History
In the United States specifically, the only industrialized country in the world to not have government mandated policies, the creative industry tends to fall horrendously behind when it comes to work/life balance benefits. In particular, a lack of parental leave sticks out like a sore thumb.
In most cases, massive conglomerates that expect 100+ hours a week from their "best of the best" workforce neglect to offer any sort of leave policy at all. It’s easy for companies to boast, "We're a family", but when it comes time to extend that love to their employee’s actual families, parents simply aren’t supported.
It may sound barbaric to not offer humane amount of time off to spend with one’s newborn, but in reality, this mentality is actually a United States business legacy, stemming from decades ago when women stayed at home while men worked. Unfortunately, even though single income households are a relic from an era long gone, government policies have yet to make up for the change in American family dynamic.
With studios in four countries around the world, our team has been starkly aware of this issue longer than most. In November of 2015, half a dozen of us sat around a conference room table in New York, discussing our own US-based policy, and griping about exactly what you've just read.
"Why don't more companies understand?”... "If only we could just make them it actually is affordable to offer parental leave benefits."... "It sucks there isn’t anything we can do."
Turns out, that wasn't the case.
A Revolution is Born
Beginning as a far-flung pipe dream that grew and evolved as we reached out to our friends and fellow creative companies in New York, we’ve spent the past six months coming up with something incredible that we believe will challenge the status quo and truly change our industry for the better.
Today, we're thrilled to announce that ustwo, along with 11 other high-profile, like-minded companies, is a founding partner of Pledge Parental Leave: A coalition of creative firms who are making a public commitment to improve parental leave policies by drawing a line in the sand and setting a minimum acceptable standard for benefits.
The notion is simple: In order to join Pledge Parental Leave, a company must offer and adhere to the following standards:
- 3 months' fully paid leave for the primary caregiver.
- 3 months' of uninterrupted health insurance.
- 6 months' guarantee that their position is held open.
- A commitment to publishing their benefits publicly online.
The final criteria of a promise for transparency is absolutely vital, as there's currently a massive taboo around asking about parental leave benefits, both during an interview and while employed. Just as you gain insight into 401k, salary, and health insurance, so you should learn about parental leave benefits up front, and without stigma attached.
11 Industry Giants Strong
Alongside us stand Betaworks, co:collective, Doberman, Dots, IDEO, Made By Many, Moment, Smart Design, Veryday, and Wolff Olins. By adhering to these four criteria, each Pledge partner has announced (and proved) to the world that we truly do are care about the wellbeing of our employees, and their families.
"Pledge Parental Leave is a hugely important movement for the creative industry in the US to meet the needs of its employees." states Jules Ehrhardt, co-owner of ustwo, "I'm proud that we've brought together the leading creative companies in the field as our launch partners–this is a powerful statement of intent."
Update- Phase II Launch: June 2016
It's been four amazing months since we launched Pledge Parental Leave, and it's been incredibly well received since day one. With coverage in Fast Company, New York Magazine, and more, we’ve since been working hard to update our website
Today we're excited to announce that we've had nine new creative companies Pledge Parental Leave to their employees, bringing our total employees covered up to over 3,200. We’re absolutely overwhelmed and excited, and can't wait to keep the momentum going! Meet our new partner companies:
Too many parents face an impossible choice: Their new child, or their paycheck. Our administration is proud to lead by example by providing fully paid parental leave to City employees. Yet the United States still lags behind the rest of the world in offering this vital, basic benefit. That’s why leadership from businesses like those in the Pledge Parental Leave coalition is vital – and we need others to quickly follow suit.
We're still not done...
We're calling on other like-minded businesses across other sectors of the creative industry in New York City and beyond to join our coalition, and make a public commitment to what ought to be basic rights for employees: The ability for parents to be with their newborn child during its first few months, to retain medical benefits, and to know that their position remains open on their return to work.
Even if your company has no policy in place, Pledge Parental Leave makes it easy to join with resources, FAQs and assets at your disposal on our website. Reasons why you should join are laid out, clearly and simply, making it practically impossible to argue against. Taking The Pledge is easy, it's financially viable, and it makes sense. The line has been drawn. Which side are you on?