Paid Leave Means Big Money
We’re bringing you articles about maternity leave all week — covering everything from current policies (or lack thereof) to personal stories and solutions that may be crazy enough to work. #matleaveweek
Despite the fact that the U.S. lags behind the world when it comes to parental leave, certain companies are making significant inroads to supporting working parents. When Netflix announced its new unlimited parental leave policy in August of 2015, Microsoft and Adobe quickly followed up with their own announcements. These were not the first big moves in 2015: Johnson & Johnson, Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, and the U.S. Navy similarly announced expanded paid leaves this year.
While some argue that paying for leave is an added burden to business, the numbers suggest otherwise. In fact, when California instituted paid medical leave, 91 percent of employers said the policy increased profits or had no effect, according to The Center for Economic and Policy Research.
That said, we know that supporting working parents isn’t just about offering paid leave (though that would sure be nice): When we asked what you wanted from your employer, an overwhelming number of you said flexibility.
Here are nine thriving companies with paid leave, flexible hours, and family-friendly policies.
According to corporate communications manager Roya Soleimani, Google upped its maternity leave from 12 weeks to 18 weeks in 2007 (and paternity up to 12 weeks from seven), based on the developmental stages of children: “Twelve-week-olds are at a very different place developmentally than are 18-week-olds,” she said. “It just felt like the right thing to do.”
Early Google employee and YouTube CEO (YouTube is owned by Google) Susan Wojcicki explained that providing for parents hardly sank Google:
Mothers were able to take the time they needed to bond with their babies and return to their jobs feeling confident and ready. And it’s much better for Google’s bottom line — to avoid costly turnover, and to retain the valued expertise, skills and perspective of our employees who are mothers. Best of all, mothers come back to the workforce with new insights.
Most impressively, after this policy change, the rate of working mothers leaving Google diminished by half. That’s not a blip — and it means that providing parents with these kinds of options goes a long way to retaining them as employees. Google reported earnings of $66 billion in 2014, which is up 19 percent from 2013.
HubSpot nabbed significant attention for its company culture — its publicly available culture deck has generated hundreds of thousands of views. U.S.-based employees get up to 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave and up to four weeks of fully paid paternity leave. In addition to its parental leave policy, HubSpot offers unlimited vacation time, which media relations manager Laura Moran says allows parents to “design a schedule that works best for them and their families.”
“We consider employee happiness a business imperative and have seen the positive effects that providing this type of benefit has on our employees,” says chief people officer Jim O’Neill. “When given the flexibility and opportunity to spend necessary time outside of work with their families, employees are much more engaged and committed to their jobs in the moments that they are working.”
And has all this flexibility hurt HubSpot’s bottom line? Nope. Its total revenue in 2014 was $115.9 million (up 49 percent from 2013). Plus, O’Neill says that “the effects of having truly happy employees who enjoy working at HubSpot are invaluable to us.”
Creating a family-friendly environment has been a part of Patagonia’s corporate culture since it was founded 40 years ago. Dean Carter, VP of human resources and shared services, said that Patagonia’s founders simply had to take their kids to work, and that experience has informed company culture ever since.
New parents are entitled to eight weeks of fully paid leave, regardless of gender, birth, or adoption (and employees who have been at Patagonia over a year receive a $5,000 credit to help with adoption costs). But there is no formal policy on how you must take leave, and employees can create flexible schedules to best suit them. In fact, Carter tells us that there have been employees who work remotely for months at a time, long after parental leave, due to their children’s needs. As he put it: “We just need to do the right things for the families.”
And Patagonia’s family-friendly policies go beyond paid leave and flexible schedules. Children up to eight years old can attend Patagonia’s on-site child development centers with outdoor classrooms. If a mother is traveling for work and she has a child under one, Patagonia will pay for another family member to accompany the mother and baby. If a family member isn’t available, Patagonia will supply a caregiver from one of its child development centers to provide support on the trip. This makes travel possible for nursing moms, something that would ordinarily be out of reach. “We don’t want mothers to feel like their career is hampered by having to take care of kids, so if they want to travel, we will enable them,” says Carter.
This isn’t just a feel-good approach to running a business. These policies have had a significant impact: Carter says the biggest positive effect is a “freakishly low turnover,” and that mothers come back at an “almost perfect return rate.” Carter says they’ve calculated what all this reduced turnover and increased productivity has won them: a $500,000 increase to the company’s bottom line.
Reddit employees are offered 16 weeks of paid leave, which can apply to either parent, regardless of gender, says co-founder and executive chairman Alexis Ohanian. The time can be taken all at once, or in two-week intervals, allowing parents to design their own leave.
Ashley Dawkins, Reddit’s director of outreach, says that the company has seen zero negative impact on its bottom line. Dawkins says Reddit views “gender equity as a corporate priority,” and that all new parents have taken advantage of the policy. Noting that family structures are evolving beyond the 1950s conception of a breadwinner and a stay-at-home wife, she adds that “more and more men [are] looking to be primary caregivers so their husbands and wives can work, [and] we want to provide that option.”
Facebook’s parental leave policy is expansive to say the least. Facebook spokesperson Genevieve Grdina confirmed that employees — mothers and fathers — are entitled to four months of paid leave.
Among Facebook’s multitude of perks for new parents is a $4,000 new-child benefit for each child (born or adopted), subsidized day care costs, surrogacy and adoption benefits to any employee regardless of relationship status (including health insurance and an additional $20,000 coverage for legal fees or IVF procedures), more than 15 rooms for nursing, breastfeeding workshops, and monthly New Family Additions classes to educate new parents about the resources available at Facebook. In a move that is truly exceptional, Facebook contractors — who would typically not have any paid support — are also entitled to the $4,000 benefit, to defray the costs of taking leave.
Choosing the term “parental leave” over “maternity leave” is an important distinction, and taking leave is both encouraged and part of the corporate culture for mothers and fathers. When VP of search Tom Stocky returned from his four-month leave in 2013, he noted that parental leave is “good for gender equality in the workplace and it's good for families with fathers.” Facebook brought in $12.47 billion in 2014.
Of the 210,000-plus global employees at professional services firm EY, approximately 1,200 U.S.-based workers take parental leave every year — and roughly half are men, says Maryella Gockel, EY’s flexibility strategy leader.
The current policy involves six weeks of fully paid leave for any primary caregiver (including adoptive parents, foster parents, and legal guardians), and was introduced in 2006. (The company originally had short-term disability for mothers, and two weeks of paid leave from 2002 onward.) In addition, EY provides a flexible workplace — one of many benefits that Gockel notes are “for all — not just concessions or accommodations for a few.” This attitude has yielded excellent results.
An internal survey of EY employees found that parents are the most engaged of the company’s employees. Engagement means big business: It “leads to higher levels of job satisfaction, productivity, and client service from our people,” says Gockel. Plus it gives EY a competitive edge. As Gockel puts it: “In our view, flexibility and paid parental leave are not just ‘nice to haves’ — they are critical to retaining our workforce and attracting the best talent in the market.”
EY reported a revenue of $27.4 billion in 2014, an increase of 6.8 percent over 2013.
New parents at Twitter are entitled to 10 weeks of fully paid bonding time, regardless of birth, adoption, or surrogacy. Women who have given birth get an additional 10 weeks of disability (covered by Twitter), and any time needed beyond that is paid at 80 percent of salary. Fathers receive 10 weeks of 100 percent paid paternity leave.
Additionally, Twitter has a non-accrual vacation policy — meaning that employees take time off when they want or need it. Laura Brady, director of compensation and benefits, says that the policy is about valuing results over face time and trusting employees to set schedules that work best for their lives.
“We don’t believe ambition and career success should be at odds with family life,” Brady says.
It’s not just Silicon Valley giants or hip startups that offer progressive leave and support parents: International intellectual property law firm Finnegan is an industry leader when it comes to flexible schedules.
The company expanded its leave options in 2008 in an effort to recruit and retain top talent, says managing partner James Monroe. At present, managers and attorneys are entitled to 12 weeks of paid parental or family leave with an additional six weeks of maternity leave. Adoptive parents get 12 weeks paid leave for primary caregivers and six weeks paid leave for secondary caregivers. Other staffers are entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave, depending on length of service, and paid adoption leave is up to six weeks for primary caregivers and one week for secondary caregivers.
Where Finnegan really shines is the flexibility offered to new parents: They can take intermittent leave, return part-time, or opt for a non-partnership track, allowing them more flexibility as their kids get older. At the D.C. headquarters, the firm offers on-site child care (for a fee), and pairs each returning parent with a mentor who recently transitioned after a family leave.
Finnegan isn’t struggling for success; the firm tops trade rankings. “While we take the work we do for our clients very seriously, we all have personal lives outside of work as well,” Monroe says. “We have found that helping employees balance the two is a win-win for all.”
PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers), the world’s largest professional services firm, upped its parental leave policy in September 2014.
New parents now have up to 26 weeks of job-guaranteed leave, with the option of being fully paid for six consecutive weeks (eight weeks for twins or triplets), or taking 15 paid days off at intervals throughout the year. Birth moms are afforded the option to add their short-term disability (fully covered by PwC and paid at 100 percent of base salary), and adoptive parents who identify as the primary care provider are eligible for an extra six weeks. The average fully paid leave comes out to 15 weeks, including short-term disability and parental leave.
This change in policy doubled the leave entitled to fathers. Jennifer Allyn, managing director in PwC's diversity office, says the change stemmed from “the need and importance for all parents, including fathers and adoptive and foster parents, to spend time away from work with a new child.”
What makes PwC unique is its flex time: Allyn estimates that 80 percent of employees use “formal or informal flex time schedules.” The goal is to “create a flexible culture where our people can respond in the most agile way to the demands of their clients while also meeting their commitments at home.”
In deciding to improve its policy, Allyn says PwC “carefully weighed the benefits of an expanded policy that offers additional time to more parents at the firm. We believe this is a significant investment in the well-being of our people and their families.” On average, more than 1,300 men and 800 women use the leave annually. PwC’s revenue as of June 2014 was $34 billion.