Fidelity Expands Parental Leave, Adds Student Loan Benefits

Fidelity Expands Parental Leave, Adds Student Loan Benefits

Fidelity Investments has joined the growing ranks of organizations that are either introducing or expanding two highly in-demand benefits: parental leave and student loan repayment assistance.

In a press release, the company announced that it was now offering 16 weeks of paid maternity leave to mothers who have just given birth, and six weeks’ leave to other new parents. Previously, it had offered six to eight weeks to new mothers and two weeks to others. While this new benefit is a major win for Fidelity employees, especially women who plan to have children, the news was overshadowed by Etsy’s announcement of its bold new policy, which gives half a year of paid leave to all new parents, regardless of gender or whether their children were born or adopted. In giving additional time off to birth mothers, Fidelity’s parental leave benefit is more typical of US organizations.

On the student loan side of things, Fidelity’s Step Ahead assistance program offers employees who have been with the company at least six months $2,000 a year toward paying off their student loans, up to a total of $10,000. Since rolling out this new benefit in January, Fidelity says it has seen nearly 5,000 employees sign up for it.

Fidelity is offering this benefit through a third-party vendor, Tuition.io, which sends payments directly to the providers of the employees’ student loans. Taking a closer look at the student loan benefit trend, Jena McGregor at the Washington Post observes that a number of such vendors have popped up recently to compete for a rapidly growing number of potential clients:

“When I start to see businesses enter a marketplace around a benefit, that tells me something is going on,” [SHRM’s director of compensation and benefits Bruce] Elliott says. Tuition.io … says it is talking to some of the largest companies in the country. The CEO of another vendor, Gradifi’s Tim DeMello, says it has 100 companies scheduled to start offering the benefit in coming months, including 19 Fortune 500 companies.

Another company, Student Loan Genius, says it’s seeing interest in a recently introduced platform that helps companies repurpose the money they’ve budgeted as 401(k) matching contributions. When workers make a student loan payment, it triggers the company to make a 401(k) contribution on their behalf, even if the employee can’t afford to put money into their 401(k) themselves after paying their loans, a common problem for younger employees.