Sallie Mae Delivers New Parental Leave Benefits

Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...

By Carmen Castro-Pagan

Oct. 17 — SLM Corp.'s soon-to-be parents have yet another reason to celebrate.

Sallie Mae announced Oct. 17 that it will expand its parental leave policy to offer up to 12 weeks of paid leave to new and adoptive parents.

Paid parental leave has become one of the most popular benefits, especially among younger employees, and employers increasingly see it as a way to retain talent.

With this move, the student loan company joins other large employers that have expanded their parental leave benefits this year, including Bank of America Corp., Hilton Worldwide, Chobani LLC and Ernst & Young LLP .

“It’s exciting to see this increase in companies offering paid leave,” Ellen Bravo, executive director of the advocacy group Family Values @ Work, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 17 via e-mail.

Competitive Benefit

“Just as we work hard every day to help millions of families save, plan, and pay for college, we are also committed to supporting the members of our own Sallie Mae family with meaningful, competitive benefit plans,” Bonnie Beasley, Sallie Mae’s chief human resources officer, said in the company’s announcement.

The new parental leave benefit, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016, will be available to more than 1,200 employees in the U.S.

“Roughly 82 percent of current employees are eligible for the new parental leave policy,” Richard Castellano, Sallie Mae’s vice president of corporate communications, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 17 via e-mail.

It will cover parents of babies born by the biological mother or a surrogate, and parents of adopted children age five or younger. The primary caregiver—usually the person who takes the primary responsibility of caring for the newborn or child—will have 12 weeks of paid leave, while the secondary caregiver will enjoy four weeks of paid leave.

Although more companies are adopting paid parental leave benefits, the number remains relatively small, and “that’s not likely to change,” Bravo said. “Many small businesses tell us they want to do this but can’t afford it,” she said.

Some large employers that offer paid parental leave say it gives them a competitive advantage and helps reduce gender and racial inequalities in the workplace, Bravo said. Other employers are offering it because they value families, she added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at

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