Lululemon expands full paid leave to workers who become parents

Lululemon Athletica is beefing up benefits to attract and retain workers, offering full-time employees three to six months of paid parental leave.

The gender-neutral benefit awards three months of paid leave to full-time workers who have been at the yogawear company for two years. Employees with five or more years at the firm qualify for six paid months off. At Lululemon, workers are considered full-time if they work 24 hours a week.

“When you think about an investment, there’s also all of those areas where it’s really hard to quantify because of the contribution and the return,” said Susan Gelinas, senior vice president for people and culture at Vancouver-based Lululemon. “We just see this as something that’s right to do for our people.”

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A pedestrian using an umbrella to shelter from the rain walks past the window display at the Lululemon Athletica Inc. sports apparel store on Regent Street in London, U.K., on Thursday, July 27, 2017. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

In the U.S., without any federal requirement for paid parental leave, it’s up to individual companies to offer a benefit, and about 35% do, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. Still, 84% of workers in the U.S. don’t have access to paid family leave, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The majority of Lululemon’s full-time staffers in the U.S. have been with the company for two or more years, while one-fifth have worked there five or more years. As of January 2018, about 60% of Lululemon’s 13,400 workers were based in the U.S. The company declined to say how much the new policy would cost.

Employees working in Canada already receive some paid parental leave, a portion of which comes from the government’s unemployment insurance program. That compensation is partial, and Lululemon’s offer there is a “paid top-up,” Gelinas said in an interview.