General Mills Adds More Leave for New Moms and Other Parents

(Bloomberg) -- Starting next year, General Mills Inc. will bump its paid maternity and parental leave offerings to match some of the more generous big employers in the U.S.

All new parents at the food giant will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a newborn, and birth mothers will get an additional six to eight weeks of maternity leave. Under the old policy, General Mills gave two weeks of parental leave and six weeks of maternity leave.

The Minneapolis-based company is also adding paid time off for other types of family responsibilities: two weeks to care for a sick family member and expanded bereavement. These benefits will be available to roughly 13,000 salaried and non-union production workers, who make up about 37 percent of General Mills’s global workforce.

The company wouldn’t say how much increasing the benefits will cost. According to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paid leave cost private employers about 7 percent of total compensation, up from about 6.6 percent since 2003.

“We’re always assessing ourselves and looking objectively at where other companies are going,” said Jacqueline Williams-Roll, the company’s Chief Human Resource Officer. “We always want to attract, develop, and retain the very best talent. ... We wanted to move the bar up.”

The benefit puts General Mills more in line with what competitors offer. Starting last year Kellogg Co. increased its parental leave to 12-14 weeks, depending on the parent. Unilever upped its paid maternity leave to 16 weeks in 2016.

With the labor market tight, companies in all industries are growing more expansive with benefits, creating new policies and including more classes of workers. Companies are also working to comply with the rising number of states and municipalities that have passed paid leave legislation.

Still, most Americans aren’t getting paid time off to care for newborns. As of 2017, only 15 percent of U.S. workers got any paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 11 percent in 2012. During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton promised to make federally mandated leave a priority.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio introduced a bill earlier this year that would allow new parents to tap Social Security benefits to finance parental leave. The Family Act, a bill sponsored by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, proposes an employee contribution of 0.2 percent of employee wages for 12 weeks of paid parental, family or medical leave.

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