Baby benefits are booming at U.S. firms: Aging millennials and growing concerns about employee engagement are driving improvements in parental leave

On her 14-week maternity leave, Sarah Galena isn’t thinking twice about her office job or the impact that her extended time off from work has on her family’s finances. And that’s precisely what her employer, Foothold Technology, wanted to accomplish when it revised its maternity policy earlier this year. The health technology firm, No. 69 on Crain’s 100 Best Places to Work in NYC, bumped paid leave to 12 weeks for a birth or adoption, from six weeks for a natural delivery and eight weeks for a C-section.

Galena, who lives on the Upper West Side, also plans to take off an additional two weeks as part of her personal time. She said Foothold’s paid leave allows her to fully focus on caring for her baby boy and helping her 3-year-old son transition to his new role as big brother. It also allows her husband, a Latin teacher, to take seven weeks of unpaid leave, in addition to his four weeks of accrued PTO.

“Foothold is definitely a place where they value your balance of family and work time,” said Galena, who works with nonprofits to help them develop and execute her firm’s electronic health record system. “I can imagine myself here for many, many more years.”

Paid parental leave is having its moment, and the most obvious signs—aside from vocal advocacy by the nation’s parent in chief and Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s taking a well-publicized two-month paternity leave—are improvements in benefits like those offered by Foothold. That’s especially so in New York City. Along with headline-grabbing companies around the country such as Los Gatos, Calif.-based Netflix (one year paid leave) and Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft (20 weeks for mom, 12 weeks for dad), many of our Best Places to Work winners amped up their parental policies in 2015.

More than 95% of the firms on our list now provide paid time off for primary caregivers, and more than 75% grant compensated leave to secondary caregivers. Compare those rates with the results of the 2015 employer survey by the Society of Human Resource Management: Just 21% of U.S. companies offer paid maternity leave (up from 12% last year), while 17% provide paid time off for dads with newborns, compared with 12% in 2014.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary