HR leaders understand that attracting the top talent is about more than salaries—it’s about wellbeing and providing a work-life balance. That includes things like sufficient vacation days, flexible work hours, work-from-home options, and parental leave. Parental leave, which includes maternity, paternity and adoption leave, is a particularly hot topic in the tech world. It makes sense—a significant proportion of tech workers are in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s, the time in their life when they’re likely to be considering starting a family.

The issue is especially acute in the United States, where there is no government-funded parental leave. The US is an outlier – it’s the only OECD country that offers no government-funded paternal leave whatsoever. In most countries in the world, there is a government-funded parental leave, ranging from the International Labour Organization’s recommended minimum of 12 weeks to a whopping 58 weeks, more than a full year, in Bulgaria.

The average amount of parental leave in OECD countries is 18 weeks, although not all countries provide full pay during that time. Some countries provide additional paid leave for fathers, or parents who are not the primary caregivers.

So, how do tech companies in the US perform against those standards? The analysts at Compete crunched the numbers and this is what we discovered.

Glass half full?

There has been a lot of buzz around parental leave, but our recent statistics show that over half (51.3%) of companies in the tech sector still don’t provide paid maternity leave at all. That means that in half of the tech companies, any leave that a new mother takes comes out of her annual vacation days or paid sick leave. If the employee doesn’t have sufficient vacation time saved, they may be forced to return to work within days, before they have had time to physically recover from the delivery (in situations where they gave birth).

The companies that do provide maternity leave give an average of 7.9 weeks at full pay, which although below the recommended 12 weeks, is a step in the right direction. That number is generally consistent across start-ups of all sizes, except for when it comes to privately-held tech companies where it jumps to 12 weeks of average cover. Many companies allow employees to add vacation days to further extend their paid leave.

What about paternity leave?

In the past, parental leave was solely about maternity leave. If secondary caregivers wanted to take time off, it was docked from their annual paid vacation days. That is slowly changing. Some tech leaders are setting a personal example—Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, famously took two months of paternity leave after the birth of each of his two daughters. The trend towards paternity leave is also driven by an increasing number of same-gender or single-parent families, where the mother is not the primary caregiver.  

In the tech world, 48.7% of companies offer paternity leave, the same percentage as offer maternity leave. The only difference is that while the average leave allocated to a primary caregiver is 7.9 weeks, the average time given to secondary caregivers is 4.3 weeks.

Unlike maternity leave, where the amount of leave is consistent between companies of various sizes, the amount of time provided for paternity leave differs dramatically depending on the funding round of the company. On average, Round B start-ups provide 3.1 weeks, Round C start-ups provide 6 weeks, and Round D start-ups provide 9 weeks of paternity leave.

Competing for the top talent

The competition for talent is tough in the tech world, and employers need to ensure that they are offering the benefits that candidates care about. For candidates planning a family, a company’s parental leave policy may be a deciding factor. For current employees, a supportive parental leave policy may make the difference between an employee quitting after having a baby, or deciding to come back to work. It’s a key issue, and as our statistics show, one that is leading more employers to introduce paid parental leave in their companies.