10 companies that get family leave right
A year ago, Ad Age and our partners at Facebook assembled The List—a group of 31 leaders from the advertising, marketing and media industry from brands and agencies including Walmart, PepsiCo, AB InBev, KFC, Kevin Hart's Laugh Out Loud, Anomaly, BBDO, Walton Isaacson, Feeding America, Combs Enterprises and Condé Nast—at the Modern restaurant in New York to meet for the first time and map out exactly what they stood for and what they wanted to accomplish in the months ahead. After a spirited and wide-ranging debate about issues including climate change and sustainability, social media's detrimental effects on mental health, and diversity and inclusion, the members decided that they wanted to focus on raising awareness about the importance of parental leave not just for employees but for companies as well.
After 12 months of research, activism and advocacy that brought The List to Cannes, Advertising Week, Sundance and even Davos—and collaboration with groups including The Female Quotient, the Boston College Center for Work & Family, The Mom Project and the National Partnership for Women and Families—the 2019 edition of the group culminated its mission by selecting 10 Companies That Get Family Leave Right.
Of course, when The List first met in April 2019, there was no way anyone could have predicted the enormous challenges—and tragedies—the entire world would now be facing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Only two months ago, The List launched its signature Ask About It campaign to encourage conversations among employees and their supervisors and HR representatives about corporate family leave policies to see how they met (or did not meet) workers' needs and expectations. The initiative launched with a dedicated website, which offers tools and resources to employees and employers to facilitate discussions about family policies, including a 10-step guide and considerable research and input from Morning Consult and the parenting site Fatherly (whose respective CEOs, Michael Ramlet and Mike Rothman, are List members).
A major part of the social media aspect of the campaign was planned to be a call for companies to hold #AskAboutIt coffee hours. To help promote the coffee hours, List members shared their stories about how their experiences with parental leave affected their personal and professional lives, including Ricky Ray Butler, CEO of Branded Entertainment Network (BEN); Santiago Gómez, senior brand manager at Danone; and Meredith Guerriero, head of U.S. partnerships at Pinterest. Butler and BEN led by example, holding their own Ask About It coffee hour on February 26.
As the calendar turned to March, however, and the coronavirus spread around the country, offices began to recommend and then mandate that employees work from home. Video shoots and other Ask About It content activations were canceled or postponed indefinitely. But as everyone involved in The List began to adjust to the new normal, the judges panel (Butler, Guerriero and Rothman along with Dia Simms, former president of Combs Enterprises and now CEO of BRN Group, and Bianca Guimaraes, SVP and creative director of BBDO New York) regrouped the way most of us do—on a Zoom video call—to review criteria of more than 30 companies that had exceeded corporate standards with their parental leave and family policies.
The judges combined the past year's research, reporting and fact-finding, including online seminars from Brad Harrington of the Boston College Center for Work & Family and Pam Cohen of The Mom Project Labs with the comprehensive data Fatherly compiled for its annual "50 Best Places to Work for New Dads" feature. This year, the site relaunched the annual list as "Fatherly at Work," a certification program and digital platform that assesses the benefits for working fathers at some 40,000 companies, as Chief Content Officer Andrew Burmon told Ad Age in January.
Each of the companies Fatherly surveyed were asked 30 questions, such as:
- How many weeks of paid parental leave does your company provide parents/non-birth parents?
- Does your company’s paid leave policy go beyond the legal requirements of your state?
- Does your company provide a transition back to work/ramp-back period for parents returning from leave?
- Does your company provide paid family caregiving leave that allows employees to take time to care for a seriously ill, injured or disabled relative or loved one?
- What percentage of fathers in your workplace take advantage of the policies listed above? What percentage of mothers?
Nine out of the 10 Companies That Get Family Leave Right are giant corporations—or belong to large multinationals—and thus have the resources to offer top policies not just because it's the right thing to do but because it's smart business. Many Silicon Valley big tech firms have had to offer increasingly more progressive, and sometimes extravagant, benefits to remain competitive.
Although the companies that the List judges considered had policies beyond the norm, the difference maker, according to Rothman, was these organizations had "done the work of educating or retraining managers. Time and again, we found that even larger organizations that had made great strides to get a really progressive policy in place would be held back if they didn't give enough thought to how well they educated their entire workforce—particularly the managerial layer."
Given the dominance of large corporations on this inaugural list, the judges also want to acknowledge smaller companies who are offering creative solutions to the family and parental needs of their employees. See "Small and Midsize Companies to Watch" below, which incoporates information from the tech recruitment site Built In.
The List 2019 is proud to present its choices for the 10 Companies That Get Family Leave Right:
Bank of America
Headquarters: Charlotte, N.C.
No. of employees: 208,000+
Noteworthy benefits: 26 weeks of gender-neutral leave for both primary and secondary caregivers, 16 weeks of which are fully paid; parents can take their leave at any time during the first year of a new child’s arrival.
Judge's comments: "They provide paid family caregiving, which allows employees to take time to care for a seriously ill, injured or disabled relative or loved one. So they're well above the mean for that," Rothman says. "They offer a childcare reimbursement benefit to help offset some of those expenses for working parents. They also offer a concierge referral service for childcare and eldercare needs. They've been making consistent strides year after year, and they've always been on Fatherly's top 50 list."
No. of employees: 7,330
Noteworthy benefits: Minimum of nine weeks fully paid maternity leave after one year of service; minimum of two weeks fully paid paternity leave after one year of service; offers backup childcare when regular childcare isn’t available; Parental Transition Coaching Program guides employees and their managers before, just after returning from, and one to five years after a parental leave.
Judge's comments: "BDO consistently gets named as one of Working Mother's Best Companies for Dads as one of the National Association for Female Executives' Top Companies for Executive Women," says Butler. "BDO has stepped beyond parental leave to create a balanced environment and can be used as a model for other businesses looking to adopt more inclusive changes in their policies."
Headquarters: New York
No. of employees: 100,000+
Noteworthy benefits: Supportive workplace for parents returning to work with initiatives like the Encore Program, which enables a smooth transition back to work through mentoring, coaching and a personalized development plan; a program providing eligible professionals with up to 16 weeks of fully paid family leave to support a range of life events impacting professionals and their families; a generous paid time-off program with an average of 30 days, plus 13 firm holidays; surrogacy and childcare subsidies; backup childcare; fertility and adoption benefits.
Judge's comments: “Well-being is a core part of their culture,” says Guimaraes. “You can see who the true heroes are once they support you after an important life event has taken place. They have good transition periods for both primary care providers and well secondary care providers.”
Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.
No. of employees: 13,300
Noteworthy benefits: 24 weeks of paid maternity leave; 12 weeks of paid paternity leave; 12 weeks of paid family care leave; 12 weeks of paid medical leave.
Judge's comments: "The thing that stuck out the most to me was they offer all of these leave policies to both full-time and part-time employees," says Butler. "I hadn't even thought of this before. I'm going to make an assumption that if someone has a part-time job, they probably have a couple of jobs. Maybe they're people who are struggling. Being able to have this type of a resource for people that maybe they can't justify giving a full-time job to is pretty amazing."
Headquarters: Armonk, N.Y.
No. of employees: 350,000
Noteworthy benefits: Up to 20 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers; fathers, partners and adoptive parents are eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave, taken any time during the first year after the child’s birth or adoption; reimburses employees up to $20,000 for adoption or surrogacy expenses; Special Care for Children Assistance Plan provides reimbursement up to $50,000 for applicable services for children with mental, physical or developmental disabilities.
Judge's comments: "In addition to excellent leave, the company goes the extra mile with benefits like designated parking spaces at IBM offices for expectant mothers, breast milk delivery services for traveling mothers, and flex time for parents who to take kids to doctor's appointments, pick up kids from school, attend school or after-school events, etc.," says Guerriero.
No. of employees: 45,000+
Noteworthy benefits: 16 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers and eight weeks for fathers and adoptive parents; flex working for all employees; coverage for surrogacy services and up to $20,000 for eligible surrogacy expenses; a $20,000 adoption subsidy and a $45,000 (lifetime maximum) fertility benefit that has no eligibility requirement of an infertility diagnosis; legal services for employees with no deductible, co-payment or claims form for services such as undertaking adoption or surrogacy or preparing a will or trust.
Judge's comments: "Liberty Mutual ranks highly for all the criteria that Fatherly measures," says Rothman, "but they stand out even more because they provide many of the same benefits to hourly and part-time employees, including health insurance, paid parental leave and paid sick leave."
Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.
No. of employees: 16,500
Noteworthy benefits: 22 weeks of fully paid leave for birth mothers; 12 weeks of fully paid leave for fathers and adopted and foster parents; all new parents receive an additional eight weeks of flex time to work from home or additional hours; new parent education stipends to support groups; no-cost new baby kits; virtual or in-office doctors’ visits; and a concierge service for daily errands and tasks.
Judge's comments: “Nvidia has been ranked on Fatherly’s top 50 companies since 2017,” says Guerriero. “The company offers every kind of program new parents could want, but more important, both fathers and mothers take advantage of these benefits—which means ‘family first’ is truly part of their culture.”
Headquarters: San Francisco
No. of employees: 600+
Noteworthy benefits: 16 weeks of paid bonding leave for birth, non-birth, adoptive or foster parents; an additional 6-17 weeks fully paid disability leave for birth mothers as designated by their physician; benefits can be used for up to one year after the arrival of the child and can be split up as needed; provides adoption assistance and pays for egg freezing, fertility testing and gene testing.
Judge's comments: "Typically when somebody goes away for leave, there's going to be a certain percentage of falloff in terms of return," says Simms. "So the fact that they have almost a 100 percent return rate for new parents is a startling and impressive statistic. They also have access to a company called Cleo, a female-founded organization that offers parents 24/7 support and resources about early childcare development, a phone hotline, lactation consulting, night doulas, and even estate planning."
Headquarters: San Francisco
No. of employees: 50,000+
Noteworthy benefits: Primary caregivers receive 26 weeks of paid time off; secondary caregivers receive 12 weeks of paid time off at 80 percent of on-target earnings; “gradual return to work” schedule of four days per week is offered for four weeks; up to $10,000 adoption assistance; 90 percent coverage of up to three Smart Cycle fertility support for employees or partners; backup child care plans; discounts and perks on babysitting services, camps and more.
Judge's comments: "First off, 26 weeks of paid time off is pretty amazing," says Guimaeres. "And they have a wide variety of childcare options via Bright Horizons, including Little Ohana, located at Salesforce West. They've also partnered with Milk Stork to provide breast-milk shipping services for traveling mothers."
Headquarters: New York
No. of employees: 23,000
Noteworthy benefits: Full-time and part-time (at least 20 hours per week): 20-week minimum parental leave for all parents, through birth, adoption, surrogacy or foster; two weeks paid global sick leave, care leave; $25,000 worth of adoption assistance (U.S.); support for fertility treatments.
Judge's comments: "This type of support for fertility treatments is eye opening," says Simms. "I've also known so many couples who've gone through adoption, and it's really expensive. Being able to get support for adoption assistance really stuck out. Eight weeks paid leave for part-time employees is also very meaningful."