It's been clear for a while who are the haves and have-nots of paid parental leave: Many companies offered the policy as a perk for white collar workers in industries where competition for talent is stiff. At the same time (and sometimes at the same very companies), hourly or part-time workers are left behind.
It's only February, but in 2018, it seems that tide is turning. The latest in a string of large corporations to offer paid parental leave to hourly workers is Lowe's. The retailer is giving its 260,000 full-time hourly workers a one-time $1,000 bonus and 10 weeks of paid maternity leave (or two weeks of paid parental leave) along with adoption assistance. The new policy starts on May 1.
The move follows a trend among America's largest employers: Last week, Starbucks announced it was expanding its parental leave policy to give hourly workers six weeks fully paid. Earlier this year, Walmart also announced it would be extending paid parental leave to its hourly workers. (The New York Times put together a helpful chart comparing paid leave benefits between salaried employees and hourly workers at America's 20 largest employers.)
While the shift is positive, advocates for paid parental leave have long stressed that leaving such an important public policy up to corporate America might not be the best idea. When it comes to paid leave, the inequity among corporate workers and hourly workers is closing at some companies, but it remains stagnant at other large companies (most notably, UPS which offers no paid leave to its hourly workers).
The U.S. is the only industrialized country without a national paid leave policy, a point top Democrats — including President Obama, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Bernie Sanders — have highlighted in recent years. The issue is deeply unpopular with conservatives though: Earlier this week, President Trump included a line about paid family leave in his State of the Union speech ("And let us support working families by supporting paid family leave."), a policy Ivanka Trump has been vocal about. The sentiment received a mild cheer on Tuesday night, with President Trump holding his hands to his ears to call for more applause.
While the White House continues to state that it supports a paid leave policy, it remains unclear that any progress will be made: House speaker Paul Ryan's office reiterated to the Daily Beast following the SOTU that he opposes such a policy.