A diverse range of organizations across industries have recently implemented new or enhanced paid family & medical leave benefits for their U.S. employees. Here are some of their stories.
Union Square Hospitality Group
PROFESSIONALIZING THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS
"We hire true professionals who desire a career in the hospitality industry. Part of that is creating a career ladder and offering benefits that meet your personal needs as they evolve."
- How much: 4 weeks at 100% of regular pay + 4 weeks at 60% of regular pay
- For whom: All full-time hourly and salaried employees with at least one year of tenure – mothers, fathers, birth and adoptive parents
Union Square Hospitality Group, which in 2015 eliminated tipping in its restaurants, has applied its penchant for ignoring conventional wisdom to its benefits program. "We hire true professionals who desire a career in the hospitality industry," said Erin Moran, the company's chief culture officer. "Part of that is creating a career ladder and offering benefits that meet your personal needs as they evolve."
In 2015, Union Square piloted paid parental leave in the corporate office, with the ultimate goal of extending the benefit to all hourly workers. The challenge was to design a program that helped employees without compromising the business. More than 80% out of roughly 1,800 employees work in the company's restaurants as hourly workers; an absence almost always means bringing in another employee to cover the shift.
Only 5% of workers in the accommodation and food services sector have access to employer-sponsored paid family leave, so there was little precedent to follow. Ultimately, the company settled on four weeks of fully paid leave, with an additional four weeks paid at 60%. "We really wanted to get all of our employees to eight weeks of leave, regardless of whether they were hourly or salaried workers," Moran said. "To do that we sacrificed some pay for the second half of the leave." To blunt the impact on company costs, the company also eliminated some paid time off policies that weren't being used. "By streamlining our policies," Moran reported, "we created room for expanding our paid parental leave policy for all workers."
Setting a New Standard for the Hospitality Industry
"We believe policies like these will help our business thrive because we are investing in those who make our business successful."
- How much: 2 weeks at 100% of regular pay (and an additional 8 weeks of full pay for birth mothers)
- For whom: All hourly and salaried employees – mothers, fathers, birth and adoptive parents
When Hilton implemented its paid parental leave policy, it knew it would be market-leading. "When we reviewed our benefits, we saw that we were on par from a competitive standpoint," reported Laura Fuentes, senior vice president, talent and rewards, at Hilton. (Hilton at the time provided partially paid maternity leave for some employees.) "However, from a value proposition standpoint, we knew we could do more than just the industry standard. Yes, we knew this policy change would put us ahead of the market, but that's exactly where we wanted to be."
In September 2015, Hilton announced that it would provide all new parents - including fathers and adoptive parents - with two weeks of fully paid parental leave and an additional eight weeks to new birth mothers. This benefit is available to everyone - from the CEO to the line cook to the concierge. The company's rationale for covering its entire workforce was simple. "At Hilton, our team members are at the heart of our success," Fuentes continued. "It matters that we listen to their feedback and support them any way we can, because that's how we live our purpose and values. We believe policies like these will help our business thrive because we are investing in those who make our business successful."
While the company sees competitive advantages to providing paid parental leave, it is supportive of companies that make similar moves. "We'd welcome others meeting us where we are," said Fuentes. "And we're glad that we can show them what's possible in a business like ours."
Johnson & Johnson
HONORING THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO EMPLOYEES
"We wanted one policy that acknowledged that both parents should have the chance to be active in the early part of a child's life."
- How much: 8 weeks fully paid parental leave
- Birth mothers can use disability for an additional 6-8 weeks
- 1 week of family Paid Time Off (can be used for child care or caregiving)
- For whom: Applies to entire workforce (except some union workers)
The Johnson & Johnson credo emphasizes commitment to employees. When Lisa Blair Davis took on her new role as vice president of global benefits, she saw an opportunity to enhance the family leave policy to meet the needs of the modern family. At the time, new mothers were entitled to disability leave, and all new parents had one week of paid leave and a year of unpaid leave. But one thing that jumped out at her was the lack of support for new fathers. "Women were taking the unpaid leave and returning to work," said Davis. "But men were taking very little leave around the birth of a child."
To understand why, Davis and her team dug into the research, especially studies from the Center for Work & Family showing that, while many men want to play a more active role in the home, they struggle to do so, in part because they don't take as much leave as women around the time of a child's birth—a crucial time for establishing caretaking norms. The center also found that men are far more likely to take leave if it is paid. "In working through this research, we knew that we didn't want a primary-/secondary-caregiver policy," Davis recalled. "We wanted one policy that acknowledged that both parents should have the chance to be active in the early part of a child's life."
In 2015, Johnson & Johnson rolled out a new policy giving all parents, regardless of gender, eight weeks of paid leave. Birth mothers have an additional six to eight weeks of disability leave, depending on how the baby was delivered. The policy also allows employees to take leave in half-day increments throughout the first year of a child's life. "We tried to create a policy in which every family can design their leave in the way that is right for them, regardless of their family situation, gender, or how they bring a child into the home," Davis said.
The Long-Term View on Family-Friendly Programs
"Patagonia is a perfect case study for what happens when women don't feel like they have to leave the workforce. You do get pay and opportunity parity."
- How much: 12 weeks of fully paid parental, caregiver, and medical leave
- Birth mothers receive an additional 4 weeks of paid leave
- For whom: All regular full-time and part-time employees with at least nine months of tenure – mothers, fathers, birth and adoptive parents
Patagonia has long been known for its extensive family benefits package. The company provides 16 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers and 12 weeks for other new parents, as well as for employees caring for an ill family member and employees with an illness of their own. It has run an onsite childcare center for more than 30 years, with teachers who visit employees' homes before their children enroll. It also allows employees who travel on business to bring a child with them and reimburses the travel costs for his or her nanny, and it has made it easier for women to breastfeed after they come back to work.
Having run some of these programs for more than a decade, Patagonia can show that they work. The company retains 100% of the female employees who go on leave after the birth of a child. "We've found that women actually want to come back to work after their leaves, and that's in part because they don't have to sacrifice parenting to do it," said Dean Carter, Patagonia's vice president for human resources and shared services. As a result, the company believes that the programs pay for themselves. "Parents who use our onsite childcare center have 25% lower turnover than those who don't," Carter continued. "When you consider replacement costs ranging from 35% to 125% [of an employee's] annual salary, those savings add up quickly."
In addition, a recent analysis showed that male and female employees at Patagonia enjoy pay parity at all levels of the organization—from entry-level to executive positions. And there are equal numbers of men and women at all management levels, including on the board of directors. "While we can't pin these outcomes to one program," Carter reported, "Patagonia is a perfect case study for what happens when women don't feel like they have to leave the workforce. You do get pay and opportunity parity."
Department of Defense
Finding New Ways to Attract and Retain Women
"Yes, we would lose a little bit of productivity while women were out, but if that helped them stay in their roles longer, it was worth it."
- How much: Ten days of paternity leave, 12 weeks of maternity leave for birth mothers
- For whom: Maternity leave is available to:
- All active duty service members
- Reserve-component members serving in a full-time status, on definite active duty recall, or mobilization orders in excess of 12 months
When Brad Carson took on his role as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, he knew that the Department of Defense had a challenge attracting and retaining women. "Women account for 20% of the armed forces, and that number has stagnated over time," said Carson, who left the DoD in 2016 and is now a BCG advisor. "After their first term of service, women leave the military at rates 30% to 50% higher than men do."
Parental leave became a major priority for Carson. At the time, the DoD was providing six weeks of paid leave for birth mothers through its disability leave program. Under the laws that govern the DoD, the department can expand disability leave, but it needs congressional approval to expand paid time off.
In exploring the case for expanding leave for birth mothers, Carson turned to the private sector. "We knew that when Google expanded its parental leave policy, it saw the retention rate of women after maternity leave increase by 50%. That was exactly the kind of change we were looking for, and it provided a clear economic rationale for making this move. Yes, we would lose a little bit of productivity while women were out, but if that helped them stay in their roles longer, it was worth it."
In January 2016, the DoD expanded its disability leave policy to 12 weeks for birth mothers, alongside other initiatives to support families in the military. These programs include increasing the hours that DoD-subsidized child care centers are open and piloting an egg- and sperm-freezing program for those who want to delay childbearing. While it's too early to confirm the benefits of these programs on employee retention and talent attraction, Carson feels confident that they will make a positive difference.
Case studies sourced from: Why Paid Family Leave is Good Business