In October 2018, NPR reported that the U.S. unemployment rate had dropped to 3.7 percent, the lowest rate in 50 years. In some states, like Colorado, where I live, the rate is even lower (3.1 percent, per Denver Post). Record low unemployment and a trend towards more progressive and creative thinking about benefits has led to some imaginative new approaches to parental leave. In this HR Headaches post, I’ll summarize five of the cutting-edge parental leave benefits employers are using to attract and retain top talent in a competitive job market. HR professionals should take note of these inventive ways to help employees with children balance work and life because I’ll bet that your competitors are.
1– Unlimited parental leave … yes, that’s right, some employers (a prominent TV/media company, for example) offer “unlimited” paid parental leave. At the media company, however, unlimited leave is confined to the first year after birth or adoption. It is available equally to moms and dads, so give this employer points for having an eye on equity.
2 – Six months paid leave for all new parents + help transitioning back to work … not as dramatic-sounding as the unlimited leave policy, but solid: a digital music company has a generous parental leave policy that gives new moms and dads six months off with pay. And, to help new parents transition back to work, the company offers flexible work options, including work from home, part-time and flexed hours.
3 – Leave share benefit for non-employee spouse … A major online retailer gets points for the imaginative nature of this benefit: this retailer has a “leave share” program that allows employees to share their benefits with a spouse or partner who doesn’t work at the company and lacks paid parental leave. At this online retailer, birth mothers get 20 weeks of paid leave in total. They can “share” six of those weeks with a spouse or partner who does not receive paid parental leave. The mechanism for the sharing is converting six weeks of paid leave to cash, which can substitute for income lost by the other parent whose employer does not offer paid parental leave. This company also offers new parents a “Ramp Back” period of up to 8 weeks during which they can opt for a reduced schedule.
4 – One year of paid leave … a charitable foundation gets the award for simplicity: the foundation offers new parents up to 52 weeks of paid parental leave in the first year following birth. It’s basically the unlimited leave benefit, but without the “unlimited” moniker.
5 – All the pay with less work … starting in January, 2019, new moms who work for a fast casual dining chain (assistant managers and higher) can reduce their work schedule to 80 percent with 100 percent pay for four weeks before and four weeks after a six-week fully-paid maternity leave. This restaurant chain also offers adoption assistance of up to $10,000 and breast milk shipment during business travel. Without a doubt, this employer deserves credit for thinking creatively about benefits in an industry (fast casual dining) not known for having top-level parental leave benefits.
The benefits of offering generous benefits are real: as you battle competitors for top talent, take a look at your parental leave policy and ask yourself whether it could use some creative updating.