What agency parental leave policies say about U.S. adland

TL;DR: Progress was made. But more needs to be done. So much more.

Hundreds of advertising agencies across America have shared their parental leave policies with Campaign US.  

This is our second annual list. We compile them for one reason: Change. 

The U.S. is light-years behind compared to our European friends when it comes to maternity/paternity leave. America is the only industrialized country in the world with no government-mandated policy. That means the onus falls on companies to take charge of their own protocol. 

One of the greatest (if not the greatest) things about advertising is that it has the power to shape culture, influence society and rewrite rules with far more clout than any state institute. At a time when trust for the government withers amid a divided country, people are looking for brands to step up and take charge. And we’re seeing this every day through purpose-driven work aimed at making the world a better place. Agencies are the creative firepower behind this change. That’s why it’s so important for them to walk the walk. You can’t expect a shop with a legacy of white, male leadership and toxic masculinity to help Olay with work about diversity and female empowerment, for example. 

A robust and competitive parental leave policy is arguably the most important benefit (outside of general health insurance) a company can offer. If agencies are serious about acquiring and retaining top talent, they should invest. Heavily. 

Peruse our list and take a look at the language agencies use to describe their policies -- it’s telling. There’s a reason why we don’t lay this out in a cookie-cutter fashion. You’ll quickly see which shops are human. Which shops care. And the ones so strangled by red tape and sticky heritage they appear devoid of empathy. 

There are some really impressive policies out there that agencies should use as a blueprint.

72andSunny offers six months (26 weeks) at full pay with job protection and a ton of benefits like free strollers and a "Returnity" program to help caregivers ease back into work. And if there wasn’t already a long line of people knocking at the doors of Wieden+Kennedy doors for its creative chops, they can brace for a new wave of talent drawn in by these powerful benefits: Up to 18 weeks of fully paid leave, job protection, compensation for travel and meals, fertility treatments covering up to $30,000 and egg retrieval for both IVF and egg freezing purposes.

Notice what these two shops have in common? Independence. Yes, 72 is part of MDC, but their portfolio of shops have the benefit of acting autonomously. There’s no doubt about it -- independent agencies offer the best parental leave policies. 

Meanwhile, juggernaut holding companies struggle to change. That’s a story as old as time. 

IPG has not enhanced its baseline policy since 2016. It works on a scale that gives employees more leave the longer they’re with the company. So one month to four years will earn you six weeks at full pay. You’ll have to be at IPG for five to nine years to get eight weeks at full pay. It caps out at 10 years, at which time staff get 13 weeks. Some agencies in the network have taken it upon themselves to amp up leave and other benefits, like Deutsch.

Meanwhile, all is quiet on the WPP front. It is one of the only companies which has not offered a statement. But that's because there are rumblings of the company pulling together an improved policy, which should be public in the near future. 

A tip of the hat, though, to Omnicom. The firm improved its paid leave to 12 weeks -- what Campaign US found to be the new average across agencies in 2020. 

A big chunk of the shops which shared their policies said they updated them as a direct result of our first parental leave list last year. Brilliant. 

This is some of the most purposeful work Campaign US does in adland and is exactly what we mean when we say this is not a publication that sits on the sidelines and critiques -- we are in the trenches with agencies and brands helping create tangible change so that the world’s best industry becomes even better.

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