More Baby Love for Financial Firms’ Employees

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Now is a better time than ever to become a parent if you work for a large financial firm, such as American Express Co.

Some of America’s top banking and financial sector companies recently improved their paid leave offerings for new biological and/or adoptive parents.

At the most generous end, American Express at the start of 2017 began offering regular full-time and part-time U.S. employees 20 weeks of paid parental leave, whether the new child enters the family through birth, adoption, or surrogacy. “Birthing mothers” can get an additional six to eight weeks of “paid, medically necessary leave related to the birth of their child,” the company said.

The company reimburses employees up to $35,000 of adoption or surrogacy expenses; offers up to $35,000 in reproductive and fertility treatment benefits over the employee’s lifetime; and provides up to 20 days a year of back-up child care, flexwork arrangements, and “parent concierges” to keep employees fully informed about their benefits.

“These updates were the next step in our journey to continue investing in the overall well-being of our employees and their families,” Tammy Yee, vice president, Benefits and Mobility, told Bloomberg BNA. “We believe longer parental leave has a far-reaching positive impact on the mental and physical health of our employees and their families. Additionally, this policy is more reflective of the needs of our diverse employee base and the employees we want to attract.”

State Street Corp. also kicked of 2017 by changing its parenting leave policy. The company now offers four to eight weeks of fully paid leave “for both moms and dads” who have worked for the company at least one year, Julie Kane, assistant vice president, public relations, told Bloomberg BNA. Birthing mothers can get six to eight weeks of short-term disability in addition, “depending on the type of birth,” she said.

“Our people are State Street’s most valuable—and valued—resource and we can’t operate effectively as a company if our employees aren’t fully-supported and thus fully focused while at work,” Mike Scannell, senior vice president, chairman, and president of the State Street Foundation, and head of Corporate Citizenship, Talent Acquisition, and the company’s Global Inclusion initiative, told Bloomberg BNA. “Offering them adequate time to attend to personal and family needs without financial stress is smart business.”

Paid Leave Graphic

Another company in this sector that recently improved its parental leave offerings in 2017 is Citigroup Inc. Employees who have been with the company for at least one year get 16 weeks paid leave if they are birth mothers, up from the 13 weeks the company previously provided, spokeswoman Elizabeth Kelly told Bloomberg BNA. All other parents who have a child by birth or adoption get eight weeks of paid parental leave, up from two weeks previously offered, she said.

Longer Standing Policies

JPMorgan Chase since January 2016 has been making 16 weeks available, an increase from 12 weeks previously, for eligible employees who become primary caregiving parents, spokeswoman Jennifer Lavoie told Bloomberg BNA. “This applies to birth or adoption placement,” she said. “Non-primary caregivers get two weeks off,” instead of one week, as was previously the case.

At Wells Fargo & Co., eligible new parent employees can take advantage of “paid time away from work to bond with their new child and adjust to their new family situation,” Diana Rodriguez, senior vice president, corporate communications, told Bloomberg BNA. Separate from the company’s other paid time off offerings, this benefit would give employees up to 16 weeks for the parent who certifies that he or she is the primary caregiver, while others get up to four weeks.

The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. provides 12 weeks of paid leave to the primary caregiver, including adoptive parents, plus six to eight weeks of short-term disability to the birth mother. Non-primary caregivers get two weeks of paid leave, Amanda Changuris, associate director of corporate communications, told Bloomberg BNA.

The rationale behind this, and a “well-being initiative” for employees, is that when they’re “at their best—on and off the job—we all benefit,” she said.

Goldman Sachs offers 16 weeks of “fully paid maternity leave” to primary caregivers, adoptive, or surrogate parents, and four weeks of paid leave to non-primary caregivers, spokeswoman Leslie Shribman told Bloomberg BNA.

The leave has to be taken in blocks of at least a week each, unless the employee’s manager agrees to another arrangement, and in any case it has to be used within one year, Goldman Sachs spokesman Michael DuVally told Bloomberg BNA.

Similarly, Barclays US, a part of Barclays Bank PLC, offers 16 weeks of paid leave to primary caregivers of children by birth, adoption, or foster care placement. Starting Aug. 1, 2016, such employees have been able to take the leave “in two segments within one year” instead of all at once, a right the company also offers to non-primary caregivers, who saw their right to paid leave increase from just one week to six weeks as of Aug. 1, the bank said.

“We are constantly looking at ways to improve our benefits so that our employees can bring their best to work and practice dynamic working that integrates with employees’ personal needs,” according to Yun Chung, head of human resources, Barclays Americas.

At U.S. Bancorp, birth mothers receive 13 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, Beth K. Hanson, director, human resources communications, told Bloomberg BNA. Non-birth and adoptive parents who have worked for the company at least one year get four weeks of fully paid leave.

“Also, we offer employees reimbursement for adoption-related expenses up to $10,000 per adoption, with a maximum of $10,000 per year per family for adoptions,” she said.

Benefits Not Fully Used

Not everyone who is offered paid parental leave takes full advantage of it, of course. Not all companies are willing to discuss usage figures. But Kane said that at State Street, “in the last 18 months, 56 percent of dads have utilized parental leave,” a figure that has gone up to 60 percent from Jan. 1 to date, she said.

Almost 8,000 Wells Fargo employees have used paid parental leave since the company first began offering it last June, Rodriguez added. Three-quarters have used the 16 weeks of leave for primary parental caregivers, and the remaining quarter have used the four weeks of leave for non-primary parental caregivers. “Males make up 20 percent of the primary leaves, and 91 percent of the non-primary leaves,” she said.

At BNY Mellon in 2016, one-third of the employees taking paid parental leave were male, Changuris said.

At American Express, “most employees who are eligible to take parental leave use all or a large part of the paid time available to them,” Yee said.

Comparatively Generous

In the context of the broader debate over parental leave in the U.S., the financial industry’s benefits look quite generous. As is well known, the U.S. lags far behind Europe in its parental leave offerings.

“There is no mandated paid maternity or paternity leave in the U.S.,” Mill Valley, Calif.-based employee ratings website Glassdoor noted in a recent report. In the European Union, all employers have to offer a minimum of 14 weeks of maternity leave, though the pay level varies. Paternity leave is not mandated in Europe any more than in the U.S., Glassdoor noted.

Closer to home, the banking and finance industry is on the more generous side in offering parental leave, although not as generous as Netflix, which offers a full year of paid leave. Other tech companies, such as Etsy, Spotify, Twitter, and Facebook, offer leaves ranging from 17 weeks to 26 weeks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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