By Cheryl Blake
In determining how any size employer accommodates families, a good place to begin is Feminists for Life’s Family-Friendly Workplace Evaluation, from “Raising Expectations in the Workplace.” This tool helps to identify what policies, resources, employer and community support, and communications strategies employees and employers can use to work together. Among the issues covered in Feminists for Life’s survey are flexibility in work situations, accessibility for parents, health, safety, and family leave.
How do large corporations comply with the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act?
Legally, they must meet the bar set by the federal government: up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a year for such situations as the birth or adoption of a child or the illness of the employee or of one of his or her family members, without loss of a job. Workers must have a 12-month tenure with the employer to be eligible for the time off.
For 30 years, the magazine Working Mother has listed the top U.S. companies for their family-friendly policies, and their top 100 list has demonstrated progress. Of the 100 companies on the magazine’s most recent list, all now offer an average of six weeks of fully paid leave to new mothers. Nine out of 10 of these top companies offer paternity leave, something not offered at all 30 years ago. Many of the top companies also help financially with adoption and provide assistance with child care and also lactation support.
What other family-friendly policies are available at big corporations?
Flexible scheduling and telecommuting are frequently cited by parents as advantages at big companies. Recruiting good new employees and retaining current workers are concerns for workplaces of every size, and flexible scheduling has a positive effect on both. Most employees who have formal or informal flexibility in their work lives cite that benefit as a primary reason for staying with a company.
On-site child care is a perk at some large employers which may allow parents to share a snack or the midday meal with their children. Although an occasional peek at the classroom or playroom may take a few moments from the employee’s day, the assurance of safety contributes to morale and ultimately to productivity. Large employers also find that time spent with children or in lactation rooms positively contributes to quality of work. In addition, the combination of an important presentation and an ill child can result in stress and possible absenteeism, so another plus for parents is backup emergency child care offered at some large employers..
What about health insurance during pregnancy and for dependents?
Size favors better insurance possibilities. More employees means there are probably a good number of parents and prospective parents either already working at the company or in the process of being recruited. Good coverage for pregnancy and for dependents is a tool used by big employees to attract and keep good workers. For more information about insurance and health care, see the health care page.
By Cheryl Blake