Facebook, Others Succeed With Paid Parental Leave Plans

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By Genevieve Douglas

Sept. 15 — New parents want paid parental leave benefits, and big employers like Facebook and Coca-Cola are designing and expanding programs to keep top talent at their organizations.

In today’s labor market, new parents leave organizations for a variety of reasons linked to their need for parental benefits, Lisa Scotton, assistant vice president of Aon Hewitt’s national absence management practice, said Sept. 15.

For example, according to data from Aon Hewitt, 31 percent of new parents who leave the workforce do so because they’re worried about the cost of childcare, Scotton said. Some 20 percent of workers who leave want more time with family; 20 percent don’t have any flexibility in their current work; 19 percent fear their children will receive lower quality care; and others say the parental leave benefit their company offers just doesn’t cover what they need, Aon found.

In the absence of a federal paid parental leave mandate, organizations have designed and implemented programs that address the specific needs of their workforce, such as parity with global leave programs and a need for expanded paternity leave benefits, panelists at a National Business Group on Health conference told attendees.

More Face Time for Dads, Same-Sex Parents

Social media giant Facebook expanded its paid parental leave program to give fathers and same-sex parents outside the U.S. the same opportunities to bond with their children as mothers and employees within the U.S. get, Amber Pilgrim, program manager of Life@ and Time Away at Facebook, said Sept. 15.

As of this year, Facebook employees receive 100 percent of weekly earnings for four months when they become new parents, and eligibility begins at the date of hire for full-time employees, Pilgrim said.

Under the parental benefit umbrella, Pilgrim said, Facebook also provides:

  •  a new child bonus to cover expenses ($4,000 for single birth, $7,000 for multiple);
  •  adoption monetary assistance;
  •  day care reimbursement;
  •  back-up child care services;
  •  free access to care provider networks;
  •  breast-feeding workshops; and
  •  new parents support groups.
Facebook has learned many lessons along the way, Pilgrim said. Companies must start the planning and design stages of the program early, and create plans for how to communicate the new benefits and who will be grandfathered in, she said.

Facebook also found that offering intermittent leave is very difficult to administer, and can have a detrimental effect on teams and projects if people are leaving and returning throughout the year, Pilgrim said.

Employers should also plan for the need for additional employees to temporarily replace missing ones, and create toolkits for managers and employees to administer the paid parental leave benefits, she added.

Modeling European Programs

B. Braun Medical Inc., a global medical device firm, decided to amend its parental leave program to better align the U.S. benefit more closely with European benefits afforded to employees abroad, Myrna Rivera, vice president of corporate benefits and HR administration, said Sept. 15.

The aim was to enrich the existing parental leave benefits provided by short-term disability and Family and Medical Leave Act leave with paid parental leave, Rivera said.

The benefits team ran the most expensive scenario for company leadership, and found it really was affordable, Rivera said.

The company now provides eligible employees with 66 percent of weekly earnings for four weeks for a single birth or six weeks for multiple births. These benefits apply to births, adoptions or parenthood by surrogacy, Rivera said.

To date, 22 employees (11 men and 11 women) have applied for the benefit. This is lower than the company anticipated, Rivera said, but it may be attributed to the older average age of employees at B. Braun Medical (47 years old).

Overall the response from employees has been positive, and the company plans to analyze how long employees actually take when given the option, and whether they actually disconnect from work or become teleworking employees for the duration of their leave, Rivera said.

Younger Workers Expect Paid Leave

Coca-Cola’s paid parental leave program, which will debut Jan. 1, 2017, arose from a working group of millennial employees who requested the benefit from top leadership, Kelly Keith, senior director of benefits for the beverage company, said Sept. 15.

The benefit will give mothers six to eight weeks of short-term disability, plus an additional six weeks of paid company leave for all new parents. This applies for adoptive parents, dads and same-sex partners, Keith said.

Full-time employees are eligible for the benefit after 90 days of employment, and it can be taken all at once or in two separate blocks of time, but must be taken within 12 months of the baby’s birth, she said. Employees can use available vacation to supplement the benefit, but it’s not required.

Coca-Cola anticipates the cost of the benefit could range from $2.4 million to $7.8 million to cover approximately 1,050 births anticipated in 2017, she said.

The greatest challenge announcing and rolling out the new benefit program has been the pushback from expectant parents who are having babies in 2016 and also want to be included, Keith said. She recommended that organizations announce new benefits closer to the date of the launch, to limit confusion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.com

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

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