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Many working parents across the U.S. had extra reason to celebrate the New Year. Numerous companies have been announcing much-welcomed changes to their parental leave policies, amending them to be more generous and comprehensive.
We’re so excited about this trend that we’ve started keeping track, maintaining a list of the employers that are leading the effort toward improved paid leave for all women in the U.S.
Coinciding with some of these companies’ announcements of new leave policies, council members in Washington, D.C. recently passed a bill that will provide private-sector workers in the city with some of the most generous benefits in the country. The plan allows new parents to take eight weeks of paid leave and offers six weeks to workers caring for ailing family members, as well as two weeks of personal sick time.
American Express, one of the companies that has improved its policies for U.S. employees, announced in mid December that they’re now (as of Jan. 1, 2017) giving both men and women with new children 20 weeks of fully-paid leave. This applies to parents who birth, adopt, or have a child through surrogacy. The policy is unique in that it doesn’t distinguish between primary and secondary caregivers (though female employees who give birth to a child are eligible for an additional six to eight weeks of paid leave if it’s medically necessary).
In addition to extending its leave, the company is “offering employees benefits worth up to $35,000 for adoption and surrogacy events, as well as $35,000 for infertility treatment—including advanced reproductive technology procedures — through its health plan,” according to Fortune.
Both full-time and part-time employees in the U.S. are eligible for these new benefits once they’ve worked at AmEx for a year.
Kevin Cox, chief HR officer for AmEx, told Fortune that the company was prompted to adapt its policies following conversations with both employees and market forces; it was also inspired to update its programs in order to seek out and retain top talent.
AmEx's new benefits program also includes a personal concierge for employees who are adding to their families, 24-hour access to lactation consultants, and free breast-milk shipping during business trips, reports Fortune.
First Data, a leader in commerce-enabling technology, announced its new workplace policy on Dec. 22. It offers 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave to both full-time and part-time employees who are primary caregivers (and two weeks for secondary caregivers), so long as they have worked at First Data for at least a year. Those with a new child — whether through natural birth, surrogacy, or adoption — are eligible.
Exelon, another of the companies that has recently adopted more expansive policies, has improved benefits for employees who have or adopt a child or for those with a family member who is critically ill. The new package, which also went into effect on Jan. 1, provides mothers who have given birth with up to 16 weeks of paid leave. New fathers and adoptive parents can get up to eight weeks of paid leave. In addition, Exelon allows primary caregivers to take two weeks of paid leave to care for a family member with a critical health condition.
Exelon is also on the right track in the fight for equal pay; the company is one of the recent signatories of the White House’s Equal Pay Pledge, an initiative to encourage major companies to take action and commit their support to closing the national gender pay gap. As part of its commitment, Exelon conducted an organization-wide gender pay analysis of all occupations and will renew this analysis on an annual basis.
Science-based company 3M has also expanded its parental leave benefits to 20 weeks (10 of which paid) for moms and dads, with the option to work part time. These benefits now extend to both biological and adoptive parents, and the company says they’re part of 3M’s continuing commitment to support greater work-life balance across the company. Biological mothers will continue to receive 6 to 8 weeks of short-term disability time off, for a total of 28 weeks of maternity leave.
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