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Companies Add New Twists to Parental Leave

Baby-bonding time for grandparents is among the new offerings

An elderly couple holding a baby on a couch.

Two large U.S. corporations—Cisco Systems and Whirlpool Corp.—have significantly increased their paid time off benefits for family members following the arrival of a new child, and where they've gone others may choose to follow.

Extended Family Time at Cisco

Cisco Systems, a global tech company of over 70,000 employees, recently announced several updates to its leave programs, such as the following:

Removal of gender stereotypes.
The company is changing language that refers to the "birth mother/father" to the gender-neutral "main and supporting caregiver."

"We've created new roles to include the child's main caregiver, the person who spends the majority of time caring for your new child, and supporting caregiver, who assists the main caregiver," said Shari Slate, vice president and chief inclusion and collaboration officer at the San Jose, Calif.-based firm. "Both roles can apply to any gender."

At Cisco locations in the U.S., main caregivers will now receive a minimum of 13 consecutive weeks of paid bonding leave—previously it was four weeks for new mothers—and unlimited paid time off (PTO) for all appointments. Supporting caregivers receive a minimum of four weeks of paid leave to bond with their new child (unchanged but now gender-neutral, rather than being called paternity leave), and PTO for appointments as well.

Additionally, the program updates reflect the different ways employees may create or expand their families by applying these benefits to surrogacy or adoption.

Grandparents' leave.
Grandparents now receive three days of paid time off when a baby joins the family, "reflecting Cisco's desire to help create a supportive family environment," Slate said.

Emergency time off.
In addition to other forms of PTO, managers at Cisco have been given discretion to allow employees to take leave to deal with unexpected situations that demand their immediate attention, "whether it's an injured family member, a tree falling through your roof, or something else," Slate said.

"We're making sure that every employee can benefit from the most precious resource that Cisco can provide—time off to take care of the people who matter most," she added.

In the U.S., the increased time off became effective Nov. 1. Cisco locations in the rest of the world will also see changes over time.

[SHRM members-only guide: How to Develop and Administer Paid Leave Programs]

Whirlpool Expands Its PTO Commitment

Whirlpool Corp. also is enriching paid-parental-leave benefits for its over 93,000 employees.

"For decades, Whirlpool Corp. has offered parental-leave benefits for new families," said Ed Mohr, vice president of employee total rewards at the appliance manufacturer, based in Benton Harbor, Mich.

"In 2018, we're adding four weeks at 100 percent pay for moms, for a total of 12 weeks. We are also adding four weeks at 100 percent pay for dads, domestic partners and adoptive parents. Parental leave is part of our commitment to helping families keep work and life in balance."

Employees who have or adopt a new child on or after Jan. 1, 2018, will be able to take advantage of the new policy.

Beyond FMLA leave.
Previously, Whirlpool Corp.'s parental leave policy allowed new mothers to take up to eight weeks of paid leave, depending on their delivery type, with the option of extending their leave, unpaid, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). New fathers and adoptive parents, as well as spouses and domestic partners of new mothers, were eligible to take unpaid leave under the FMLA following the birth or arrival of their child.

"We know the needs of our employees are constantly changing and evolving and that we need to change and evolve alongside them," said Carey Martin, Whirlpool's vice president of global HR. "This new policy is the result of intensive research by our benefits team that takes into account the most up-to-date trends and best practices for the workplace. It's simply the right thing to do."

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Whirlpool Corp.'s founder Lou Upton's decision to offer paid vacation—a benefit that was unheard of at the time, Mohr and Martin said. Upton wrote that his goal was to encourage employees to spend time with their families.

Support for nursing mothers.
Whirlpool has also introduced a new benefit program that provides nursing mothers reimbursement for services that allow them to ship breastmilk home while traveling for business. "The benefit empowers working mothers to take advantage of and participate in business travel opportunities, while easing some of the difficulties of traveling while nursing," Martin pointed out.

In Comparison

The Society for Human Resource Management's 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace survey of HR professionals found that last year, on average, organizations gave new mothers 41 paid days of maternity leave, compared with 22 paid days of paternity leave for new fathers.

The average amount of paid adoption leave and paid surrogacy leave was 31 and 36 days, respectively.

Generally, the majority of employees exhausted all the parental leave awarded to them.

(Click on graphic to view in a separate window.)

17-1560 Paid Parental Leave.jpg

Related SHRM Articles:

EEOC Sues Estée Lauder Over Unequal Leave for New Dads, SHRM Online Benefits, September 2017

American Express Pushes Paid Parental Leave to 20 Weeks for Moms and Dads, SHRM Online Benefits, December 2016

Facebook, Coca-Cola, Braun Medical Offer Paid Parental Leave Tips, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2016

Common Paid Leave Practices Could Be Reinforcing Gender Roles, Survey Suggests, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2016

Labor Demand Boosts Paid Time Off Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, June 2016

How to Weigh the Value of Paid Parental Leave, SHRM Online Benefits, April 2016

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