It's fascinating and baffling how complicated going on leave is today. The most common reasons for leave are deeply personal: you're starting a family, recovering from an injury, or caring for an aging parent. Historically, employers have asked employees to spend hours on the phone with insurance representatives and wade through mountains of government and insurance claims to take time off—often during some of the most sensitive moments of people’s lives.
We knew there was a better way both for employers to show they care about their employees in these pivotal life moments, and for employees, to quickly and easily take the time off they need and deserve.
A brief history of employee leave
To understand how and why taking a leave of absence and managing it got so messy, it’s important to acknowledge how we got to where we are today.
The concept of paid leave dates back to World War I, when the International Labor Organization adopted the Maternity Protection Convention. This 1919 convention called for 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, free medical care during and after pregnancy, job guarantees upon return to work, and periodic breaks to nurse infants.
Since then, every developed country in the world has either followed or surpassed this international standard—except the United States.
Progress was minimal and slow until 1993, when President Clinton passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This labor law requires covered employers to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualifying reasons. States then began passing their own paid leave acts, leading us to 2020, when two things happened: one, President Biden expressed support for 12 weeks of paid family leave, and two, a global pandemic shifted cultural and societal paradigms around the workplace and what we—the U.S. workforce—hold most important.
We’re at a massive inflection point for leave
2020 has been a massive inflection point for both employees and HR teams.
For employees, more than a year spent working from home has enabled many of us to realize what really matters when it comes to workplace benefits, and what we can expect from our employers. In countless conversations with workers in a myriad of industries, we believe one of the most important and widespread of these expectations is that employers step up for their employees in critical, pivotal moments.
For HR teams, there’s been a combinatorial explosion of regulations around leave with COVID as well as new regulations at the state and federal level. The increasing number of employees opting to work remotely to be nearer to family and friends during the pandemic created a compliance nightmare for people leaders. We’ve heard over and over again from people leaders that leave was hard before COVID, but now that their teams are distributed across different states, it’s 10x harder.
The problem with employee leave
New parents, caregivers or anyone dealing with a personal or medical issue must juggle the alphabet soup of leave laws, dealing with the state and private insurance, and spending a shocking amount of time on administrative tasks instead of being able to focus on the reason they took leave. We’ve had friends tell us how they were literally on their laptops struggling to apply for disability insurance while being wheeled into a surgery.
Baffled by experiences like this one, we started chatting with people from all walks of life; from teammates of ours and people who worked in dentist offices, construction sites, and convenience stores, to security guards, hairdressers, executive assistants, and more.
Their experiences were eye-opening. From not being able to find a fax machine to file claims, to keeping an Excel spreadsheet to track checks and reconcile pay, we talked to hundreds of employees who had nightmare stories to tell and wondered why nobody had solved this problem yet.
In addition to horror stories from folks going on leave, we also talked to people leaders who shared with us how difficult it is to support their employees through these pivotal life moments. They’re spending time figuring out what an employee is eligible for, which compliance notices need to be sent and how to determine complex payroll calculations. This leaves little room to bring empathy into the experience and results in a completely broken system for all.
We’re building the future of leave—join us
At Cocoon, we're rolling up our sleeves and tackling this complex world of employee leave and how it’s managed. We saw how difficult it was for our own friends and teammates to take leave during critical life moments; moments they should not be spending on the phone with insurance companies or searching for a fax machine in the hospital.
Having seen dusty, highly regulated industries get transformed in our prior lives at Square and Stripe, we strongly believe we can bring the same level of creativity and instant simplicity to the world of leave.
We started Cocoon to make leave what it should be. What we’d want it to be for our friends, families, teammates, and ourselves.
Come join us to push the boundaries on employee leave together.
Amber, Lauren & Mahima