The tech giant follows companies like Facebook, Netflix, American Express and Etsy
IBM is the latest tech giant to boost its parental leave benefits.
The Armonk, NY-based company announced Wednesday it will offer 20 weeks of paid maternity leave — up from a previous 14 weeks — to new moms employed by the tech giant. Dads, partners and adoptive parents who initially got six weeks, will now receive double with 12 paid weeks off.
IBM is also giving employees a reimbursement of up to $20,000 for expenses related to surrogacy or adoption for straight and same sex parents, an increase from the initial $5,000 offered for just adoptions. The new reimbursement will be available to workers even if their efforts are unsuccessful, so that employees can pursue parenthood without depleting their savings, IBM’s vice president of benefits Barbara Brickmeier said, noting that the new benefits reflect the company’s understanding that “no one size fits all.”
“We have a general approach of wanting to meet employees where they are,” Brickmeier told Fortune. “People are forming families in various ways.”
The U.S. consistently ranks at the bottom in comparison to other countries, particularly those in Europe, that offer paid parental leave programs that make life much easier for new parents. In Finland, for example, mothers can start their maternity leave seven weeks before their due date. After that, the government covers an additional 16 weeks of paid leave. New moms in Denmark get a total of 18 weeks, and new parents in Sweden get 480 days of leave at 80% of their normal pay. In the US, workers can take 12 weeks of unpaid, protected job leave, however only 12% of Americans have access to the paid parental leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But in recent years, some US companies have made an effort to improve their employee benefit policies. Facebook currently offers four months of paid leave for new parents, moms and dads alike. Netflix has 12 months of paid parental leave that employees can use at their own discretion, giving pregnant staffers and their spouses the ability to better manage the work life balance of starting a family. Last year, American Express introduced a new policy that gives men and women 20 weeks of paid leave upon the arrival of a new child and as much as $35,000 for adoption and surrogacy options. And online marketplace Etsy launched a gender-neutral parental leave policy giving new parents 26 weeks of paid leave they can use within two years of welcoming a new child.
Research suggests that paid maternity leave leads to better health for mothers and babies; lower rates of postpartum depression and newborn and infant mortality; and higher rates of breastfeeding and child immunizations. Working women who received 12 weeks or more of paid maternity leave were more likely to start breastfeeding their baby and continue to breastfeed for at least six months — the recommended time frame by the American Academy of Pediatrics – than women who did not get any paid leave, a study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
Paid leave also encourages female employees to stay at their jobs longer. A study from 2011 found that when California became the first state to offer paid leave, new mothers were more likely to return to work. Between one and three years later, moms of small children were working more and at higher salaries.
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