Chobani Yogurt is now offering the option of six weeks paid parental leave to full-time hourly and salaried employees. The policy change came after CEO Hamdi Ulukaya became a father earlier this year. He stated it was the hardest job he’d ever done and that it was only right to support other parents.
The move to provide six weeks of full paid leave mainly applies to factory workers who often aren’t offered the same benefits as those in office positions. The policy also extends to new parents who have adopted or are fostering a child.
“I think having that option has been really helping people in their planning,” said Grace Zuncic, senior vice president of Corporate Development for Chobani. “It’s so overwhelming. You don’t know what to expect. Everything is new and different and we want to be there for our employees during that period.”
A 2017 study conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families stated that the first three months of a newborn’s life are some of the most crucial for development. It’s the time where babies begin to recognize voices, smells, and faces. For new parents, it’s when a bond is established with the child.
In the U.S., paid leave isn’t guaranteed by any federal mandate. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a woman’s job is protected for a total of 12 weeks after childbirth or adoption – without pay. On the flipside, FMLA offers six weeks of unpaid leave for men.
Consequently, parents are forced to decide whether or not to use up accrued vacation or sick days to ensure that they will receive some sort of financial support during the first few months of parenthood.
“We want them to enjoy this time,” said Zuncic. “We want them to read them [stories]. We want them to go for a walk. We want them to help their partner. And just be there as a family. Have the experience as a family.”
It’s important to note that this the issue of paid leave is company specific. There are workplaces that already have the option for partial or full-paid parental leave, as Chobani has now announced it will do.
Becoming a new parent can be stressful enough without the worry of money. The U.S. should be making a stronger effort to support paid parental leave as it not only increases overall employee morale and retention but can also improve workplace productivity.
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