IBM has joined the list of tech companies overhauling their parental leave policies to court working mothers in the US. The company’s VP of Employee Benefits, Barbara Brickmeier, announced on Wednesday that the company had updated its parental leave policy, applying retroactively to IBM babies born or adopted after November 2016: New mothers will now have up to 20 weeks of paid leave, rather than 14, and leave for new fathers, partners, and adoptive parents has been doubled from six to 12 weeks.
Parents can take this time off at any time during the first year after the birth or adoption, and IBM will also reimburse up to $20,000 of employees’ adoption of surrogacy expenses. Brickmeier also highlights some other changes the tech giant has made to support parents, especially mothers, in its workforce:
As medical diagnosis has improved, our society has recognized the potential of special needs services for children. Our Special Care for Children Assistance Plan reimburses employees $50,000 towards applicable services for each child with mental, physical or developmental disabilities.
In addition, we continue to adapt our popular family-friendly programs, which include:
- Our 2015 milk delivery program for nursing moms who travel on business has been expanded to international travel;
- Childcare center and after-school center discounts across the U.S.;
- Expanding expectant mother parking to IBM locations across 50 states;
- Investing in child care centers with guaranteed priority status for IBM families through our Global Work/Life Fund;
- A range of maternity and mindfulness services;
IBM already scored high on indices of working-mother-friendly employee benefits and corporate environments, and is both following and driving forward an industrywide benefits war to attract and retain working mothers to help fill their talent gaps. It has also developed, in partnership with iRelaunch, a re-entry program for mid-career women who have taken extended career breaks, such as to care for a child or elderly parent.
As more and more companies recognize the need to keep women in the workforce after they become mothers, the most progressive employers have introduced a range of new benefits to cater specifically to the needs of working parents. Quartz’s Jenny Anderson takes a look at the latest report from Working Mother highlighting the 100 US companies with the best benefits for moms and showing the lengths they are going to in order to retain them:
Cutting-edge companies on this front, including Deloitte, IBM, McKinsey, UBS, and Unilever, have delved into the most painful tradeoffs inherent to hard work: kids in need, household management, and family illness. The response includes help for parents whose kids have autism (88% of Working Mother’s top 100 companies offer this type of support), college coaching for teens (63% of the top 100 offer it), letting new moms phase back into work gradually with full pay (70% offer this), and even homework hotlines, which one-quarter of Working Mother’s top 100 offer. …
Working Mother, which has compiled the list for 32 years, picks its best companies based on 400 questions about a range of factors, including leave policies, workforce representation, benefits, childcare, advancement programs, and flexibility policies. … The most competitive companies go deeper, though, focusing on employees’ needs after parental leave, and how to help them stay. More companies are now willing to say, “‘I will pay more, have less in my bottom line, but I will keep employees,’” says [Subha Barry, senior vice president & managing director of Working Mother Media].
Retention is indeed the name of the game here, as the absence of family-friendly policies is a significant driver of attrition among working mothers.
California Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a bill that will prohibit all public and private employers in the state from asking job candidates about their prior salaries and require them to give candidates a pay range for the role to which they are applying upon request. The new law, which is meant to help close the gender pay gap, takes effect January 1, SF Gate reports:
Last year, the state passed a weaker law that said prior compensation, by itself, cannot justify any disparity in compensation. The new bill goes further by prohibiting employers, “orally or in writing, personally or through an agent,” from asking about an applicant’s previous pay. However, if the applicant “voluntarily and without prompting” provides this information, the employer may use it “in determining the salary for that applicant.” …
The bill was one of nine Brown signed Wednesday designed to help women and children. One of them, SB63, will let mothers and fathers working for employers with 20 to 49 employees take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or foster child. Businesses with 50 or more workers already had to provide this. The leave can be taken in two-week increments.
With this bill, California joins Delaware, Massachusetts and Oregon as states with bans on salary histories coming into effect within the coming year. The governor of Illinois vetoed a similar ban in August, but the trend among liberal-leaning states is otherwise unmistakeable. Salary history bans have also been enacted at the local level in places like New York City and San Francisco, while a version in Philadelphia has been held pending a court challenge.
Starbucks has a reputation for taking good care of its store employees (or “partners” as it likes to call them), but it has nonetheless drawn some controversy this year regarding its paid parental leave program. Under a new policy announced earlier this year, new mothers who work at the coffee chain’s corporate offices are entitled to as much as 18 weeks of leave at full pay after giving birth, while fathers and adoptive parents get 12 weeks. Store employees working more than 20 hours a week and who have been with the company more than 90 days are allowed six weeks of paid medical leave upon giving birth, while those who adopt are eligible for a six-week adoption allowance, both at 100 percent of their average weekly pay.
Even though these benefits are much better than what most hourly retail and service employees in the US enjoy, the policy raised questions about why corporate employees were entitled to so much more. In August, the Guardian’s Molly Redden highlighted the impact of this disparity on store employees, noting that Starbucks is not alone among major US companies in offering more generous parental leave benefits to their corporate employees than to their front-line staff. Now, Redden reports, a group of investors led by Zevin Asset Management is pressuring Starbucks to tell its shareholders whether this discrepancy might constitute employment discrimination:
“Paid family leave is a huge factor in how well women can stay involved in the workforce after having a baby, or how much time out they have to take in their careers,” said Pat Tomaino, Zevin’s associate director of socially responsible investing. “Women and their families benefit from equal and generous paid family leave – but companies do too.”
The UK’s Shared Parental Leave law was intended to encourage working parents to more evenly split up the burden of caring for infant children by allowing new mothers (or “lead parents” in same-sex couples) 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay to divide between themselves and their partners in any proportion they choose. Since being enacted in April 2015, however, the SPL policy has failed to garner much uptake: The latest research shows that even though plenty of parents are taking leave, just a few took advantage of this policy last year, Emily Burt reports at People Management:
[F]igures published by law firm EMW found that, while 661,000 mothers and 221,000 fathers took maternity and paternity leave in the year to March 2017, only 8,700 parents took SPL. “Many new parents are unclear about how the system will work for their families and careers,” warned Jon Taylor, principal at EMW. “Fathers in particular could be concerned about coming across as less committed to their job if they ask for greater flexibility, deterring them from looking into it.” …
Separate figures obtained by People Management in June revealed that fewer than 7,500 men had taken SPL in the past year, with experts suggesting that they had been deterred by the ‘complexity’ of the rules. Meanwhile, CIPD data from December 2016 found that just 5 per cent of new fathers had opted to take SPL.
Previous studies have shown persistently low take-up of this benefit, which has left architects of the policy and advocates of mainstreaming paternity leave scratching their heads as to why it hasn’t caught on. The hundreds of thousands of fathers taking parental leave suggests that the problem is not one of insufficient demand.
Over the past few years, we have seen a growing number of organizations in the US and around the world introduce or expand parental leave benefits for new fathers in their workforce, as well as new mothers, in response to increasing demand for paternity leave and greater work-life balance for working parents in general, particularly among millennials who are starting families. Recent court cases both in the US and in the UK have advanced the argument that granting more parental leave to mothers than to fathers (beyond the additional medical leave to which women who have just given birth are entitled) constitutes gender discrimination.
These lawsuits point to the increasing importance of paternity leave in employee perceptions of their total rewards packages. Our research at CEB (now Gartner) shows that employees are sensitive to changes in both maternity and paternity leave. However, increasing paternity leave actually has a slightly greater impact on employee perceptions of rewards than increasing maternity leave, likely because paternity leave is rarer and more variable across companies.
As a forthcoming benchmark report on employee rewards preferences will show, employees globally also tend to get more utility out of lower levels of paternity leave than maternity leave. That is, employees are more sensitive to an additional two weeks of paternity leave than they are to the same additional amount of maternity leave.
Yet this does not mean that maternity leave is not valuable or important!
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an employee at the beauty products manufacturer Estée Lauder Companies, accusing the company of discriminating against male employees by awarding different amounts of paid parental leave to mothers and fathers, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, the EEOC is acting on behalf of a stock worker in Maryland, who sought to take advantage of the child-bonding leave benefit Estée Lauder offers to new mothers and was given just two weeks of leave as opposed to the six weeks mothers receive (on top of the time they are allowed to take off to recover from childbirth). New mothers also allegedly are offered flexible return-to-work benefits that are not available to fathers.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC is arguing that this policy violates the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and demanding back pay, damages, and injunctive relief for the stock worker and other male employees affected by the policy. US employers are not required by law to offer paid parental leave, but for those that do, the commission’s official position is that these benefits should be equally available to parents of both genders, except for medical leave benefits related to pregnancy and childbirth, which of course can be reserved for women.
In another discrimination complaint filed with the EEOC in June, JPMorgan Chase employee Derek Rotondo claimed that the bank’s parental leave policy discriminated against him and other working fathers by “relying on a sex-based stereotype that mothers are the primary caretakers of children.” JPMorgan Chase offers different benefits to “primary” and “secondary” caregivers—and according to Rotondo’s allegations, automatically designates mothers as primary caregivers but requires fathers to meet a set of eligibility criteria. The EEOC has not yet taken legal action on Rotondo’s behalf, but this case again reflects the growing pressure on companies not to discriminate between mothers and fathers in their parental leave policies.