50 companies that made big benefits changes

Go ahead and call 2018 the year of the benefits boom.

Employers in droves made changes large and small to their benefits packages in the past year as a number of factors raised the stakes. President Trump’s tax overhaul — which slashed the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% in late 2017 — prompted a number of companies to invest savings into employee benefits packages. And a hot job market — the unemployment rate currently hovers just below 4%, a 48-year low — spurred companies to think creatively about how to best recruit and retain workers.

From beefing up paid parental leave policies and implementing student loan benefits to eyeing rare offerings — think free college tuition, breast milk shipping services and free babysitting services —here’s a look at 50 companies that made significant benefits changes this year.

Activision Blizzard
The gaming entertainment company added a smart crib to their benefits package earlier this year to help tired parents get some more rest.

New parents receive Happiest Baby’s SNOO Smart Sleeper — a responsive bassinet that lulls fussy babies back to sleep with motion and sound while also swaddling them for safe sleeping — in anticipation of their newborn’s arrival. The $1,500 bassinet is on loan to new parents for six months — the time it takes for a newborn to outgrow the bassinet and transition to a crib — and arrives either brand new or refurbished, with everything but the motor and bedframe stripped away and replaced.

Activision Blizzard pays $3.50 per smart sleeper per day, which amounts to about $630 per employee.

Read more here.
Aflac’s benefits changes, which took effect at the beginning of the year, include an increased 401(k) match — from 50% of employees’ first 6% of compensation to 100% on the first 4% of employee contribution — and a one-time $500 contribution to about 5,400 eligible employees’ retirement plans.

The insurer also added employer-sponsored hospital and accident insurance plans in addition to its cancer insurance benefit. Previously, the company provided a 50% subsidy on hospital and accident insurance plans as a voluntary benefit.

Read more here.
The health insurance giant — which serves more than 73 million people through its affiliated companies — early this year contributed $1,000 to the 401(k) accounts of more than 58,000 employees and recent retirees, for a total of $58 million. Full-time, part-time and temporary employees were eligible to receive the contributions. For those who weren’t already participating in the company’s workplace-sponsored plan, Anthem automatically created 401(k) accounts for these individuals and make the $1,000 investment. The 401(k) change was made in response to company savings from the corporate tax code.

Read more here.
The automotive retailer doubled its matching contributions to employees’ 401(k) and increased its deferred compensation match to 100% of the first $5,500. Those benefits went into effect Jan. 1.

The company, which has 26,000 full and part-time employees, also introduced a cancer benefit for its workers and their families. AutoNation now pays fully for MetLife cancer insurance for employees, spouses and children up to age 26. The benefit, which also includes a cash payment up to $5,000 for cancer diagnosis, with no limitations on how the money is spent, will apply to AutoNation employees starting on their first day of employment. That benefit began Feb. 1.

Read more here.
benefitfocus sign
Benefitfocus, a cloud-based benefits management platform and services provider, began giving employees a chance to own a piece of the company with a new stock program benefit.

More than 1,400 full-time employees received a one-time restricted stock unit in April, currently valued at about $2,000, according to the Charleston-based company.

“Associates are more cognizant of how a benefit-focused company operates from a financial perspective,” says Jeff Oldham, senior vice president of global and institutional Markets at Benefitfocus. “Folks are now going to take greater responsibility because they are now a shareholder.”

The benefit takes three years to vest, with employees having the option to take out a third of the stock’s value after the first year. Employees will receive an additional share every three years — a tactic Oldham says will help with employee retention and engagement.

Read more here.
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons, a childcare company which serves more than 100,000 children at childcare centers throughout the country, this summer announced a new benefit for its 20,000 employees: free associates or bachelor’s degrees.

Bright Horizons’ new benefit allows all of its full-time workers — including teachers, assistant teachers and other center staff — to earn a full-ride degree in early childhood education at one of four online schools: Ashford University, Northampton Community College, Rasmussen College and Walden University.

The company’s new free tuition benefit alleviates that issue by covering all expenses, including tuition, fees and books, so there are no out-of-pocket fees. There’s also no waiting period: Bright Horizons employees will be eligible for the benefit, dubbed the Early Education Degree Achievement Plan, starting on their first day of work. In addition to tuition and expenses, individuals who sign up for the benefit will have the support of an education adviser who will help them determine the right program to meet their career goals and fit within their personal lives. The Early Education Degree Achievement Plan will be administered through EdAssist, provider of tuition assistance and student loan repayment benefits and a division of Bright Horizons.

Read more here.
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb updated its parental leave and caregiver assistance policies in an effort to better serve new parents and the “sandwich generation” — employees who care for their children as well as their elderly parents.

The benefit, which was announced internally in October 2017 and went into effect on Jan. 1, allows 12,000 employees, regardless of gender or marriage status, eight weeks of paid parental leave and 16 weeks of unpaid leave. The leave can also be taken intermittently, the company says. Previously, birth mothers could take six to eight weeks of short-term disability, followed by 16 weeks of unpaid leave, and fathers and adoptive parents had access to one to five weeks of leave. The program is open to all U.S. employees, including eligible hourly workers, according to Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“It’s inclusive of all family sizes and reflects the needs of our diverse workforce,” says Lisa Goldey, global head of total rewards and people services at Bristol-Myers Squibb. “LGBTQ, sandwich generation, millennial cohort: all of them can and will benefit.”

Read more here.
Broadridge Financial Solutions
Broadridge Financial Solutions, a fintech company with about 10,000 employees in 16 countries, expanded its benefits suite with a more inclusive parental leave policy and extra perks. The Lake Success, New York-based company expanded parental leave benefits to include all parents, raised the company charitable giving annual match to $3,000 and increased the number of vacation days available to employees who have worked at Broadridge for less than five years.

Previously, the company offered nine weeks of fully paid leave to birth mothers through a disability program. The company also gave a week of full pay for parental leave. Additionally, Broadridge increased its starting vacation days from two weeks to three weeks for employees who have worked at the company for less than five years. It also doubled its charitable giving annual match to $3,000, from $1,500.

Read more here.
Clothing retailer Carhartt started offering eligible employees a $50 monthly contribution toward their student debt up to a lifetime maximum of $10,000. The monthly payments go directly to the employees’ student loan service providers and are applied to principal on their loans.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company, which employs 4,700 worldwide, initiated the student loan repayment assistance program to help employees further their education.
The company has budgeted for 448 employees to sign up for the benefit this year, according to Jodi Ruffini, Carhartt’s director of benefits. The plan is open to all full- and part-time employees, both union and nonunion. Nonunion employees are eligible after 30 days with the company, while union employees are eligible after 90 days.

Read more here.
Fast food chain Chick-fil-A said in May it plans to award more than $14.5 million in scholarships to more than 5,700 corporate and franchise employees in 2018 as part of its enhanced educational assistance benefits. The “Remarkable Futures” education initiative offers scholarships in the amount of $2,500 and $25,000, which can be applied to accredited two- or four-year colleges and universities, online programs, or technical or vocational schools. There is no requirement of hours worked or length of service to qualify.

Read more here.
The Denver-based fast food chain said it reinvested more than 33% of its anticipated savings from tax law changes, which slashed the corporate rate by 14%, into its employee benefits. More than 71,000 employees are now eligible for accelerated training programs, cash and stock bonuses, paid parental leave, life insurance and short-term disability, Chipotle said in February.
Among its new benefits, the company doubled down on its education benefits with an accelerated training program. Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the company offered $5,250 in tuition reimbursement and reduced-cost courses and degree programs at a number of colleges and universities through Guild Education.

With the anticipated savings from tax law, Chipotle will additionally give employees access to an accelerated training program, which will be conducted internally in both the restaurant space and in a classroom at the company’s Denver headquarters.

Read more here.
The tech giant in October said it is rolling out egg storage reimbursement, surrogacy reimbursement and genetic testing benefits for its 38,000 U.S. employees — following the lead of other employers that are ramping up family-oriented perks to attract and retain talent.

Cisco says it will reimburse employees up to $20,000 to harvest or store eggs or embryos and support pregnancy-fostering services. It also will increase reimbursement for adoption and surrogacy to $20,000 in 2019 from $10,000 now, and will cover genetic testing to identify gene changes associated with breast and ovarian cancer, even if the test is not medically necessary. The changes, announced in tandem with open enrollment, will kick in Jan. 1.

The company’s benefits enhancements “support diverse needs at every life stage for all employees and their families,” says Karen Wiens, HR director of health and wellness strategy at Cisco. “We want to adapt our benefits to the generations, especially as [they relate] to the choice of having children later in life and evolving technology that encourages prevention and medical interventions to address the risk.”

Read more here.
Crystal & Co.
National insurance brokerage firm Crystal & Company added a $10,000 student loan repayment contribution to its benefits package this year as a financial wellness tool and attraction and retention incentive.

The monthly contribution starts at $100 a month and increases by $25 each subsequent year, which will help employees pay down the principal on their student loans and decrease the amount of interest they have to pay over the loan’s lifetime. Employees who personally took classes and have student loans in their name need to stay at the company for five years and five months to receive the full $10,000 benefit.

The company expects 40 to 50 of its 450 employees — roughly 10% — to enroll with Gradifi, the student loan repayment platform used by companies like PwC and Penguin Random House. The company expects that number to double in the coming years.

Read more here.
CVS Health
CVS Health expanded its benefits suite at the beginning of the year — amid sweeping tax overhaul changes — to include paid parental leave to full-time employees and maintaining employee premium rates.

The drugstore retailer, which has 240,000 employees across the country, now offers four weeks of fully paid parental leave to hourly and salary full-time employees, regardless of gender. Previously, women received partially paid leave while men received unpaid parental leave, according to the company.

CVS Health also did not increase employee premiums for the 2018-19 plan year, and said it is absorbing any additional costs for the 100,000 workers enrolled in the company-sponsored health plan.

Read more here.
The fourth largest U.S. credit card company announced in June it is offering its 16,500 employees the chance to earn a full-ride bachelor’s degree online from three different universities: the University of Florida, Wilmington University and Brandman University. Dubbed the Discover College Commitment, the benefit covers tuition and required fees, books and supplies for its employees.

Jon Kaplan, Discover’s vice president of training and development, says not only is the free college tuition offering a volley to help it recruit and retain talent, but it’s simply “the right thing to do.”
About 99% of the company’s employees will qualify for the benefit, including full-time employees and part-time workers who work at least 30 hours a week, Kaplan says. Discover expects a number of its customer call center employees, many of whom do not have a college degree, to take advantage of the benefit.

“We want to invest and develop our employees,” he says. “We feel that providing a no-cost college education to employees will not only help each employee that takes part, but the company overall.”
The benefit has no tenure requirement, so employees can start participating as soon as they want to, regardless of how long they have been with the company, Discover says. That includes new employees on their first day.

Read more here.
Earlier this year, Disney handed out $1,000 bonuses to some 125,000 U.S. employees. And, in summer it announced it is offering to pay full tuition for its hourly workers who want to earn a college degree, finish a high school diploma or learn a new skill. Up to 80,000 employees could take advantage of the new benefit.

The program, dubbed Disney Aspire, will cover 100% of tuition upfront and will also reimburse application fees and required books and materials, which Jayne Parker, senior executive vice president and chief HR officer for the Walt Disney Company, says “removes the worry of paying to start or continue school.” The program — which is being administered by Denver-based Guild Education — is designed for working adults and offers Disney employees “maximum choice and flexibility with their studies, regardless of whether the program and classes they choose are tied to their current role at Disney,” the company said. A network of schools and a range of degrees and disciplines — including college and master’s degrees, high school equivalency, English-language learning and vocational training — will be available for employees, Disney said.

Read more here.
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Dollar General
Dollar General introduced a new paid parental leave benefit in March, offering two weeks of paid time off for all eligible full-time and part-time employees, and eight weeks of paid time off for birth mothers.

The Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based retailer with 130,000 employees across the country also implemented a $4,000 adoption assistance benefit. Benefits are subject to employees meeting certain eligibility requirements, but the retailer did not expand on those requirements when asked.

Read more here.
Italian marketplace and food hall chain Eataly this year began offering eight weeks of paid parental leave to mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child.

Eataly’s policy went into effect in January, and all employees who have been working at the company for at least a year are eligible, regardless of hours worked per week. Employees will be paid for 100% of their gross weekly wages for their first four weeks of leave and the second four weeks will be paid at 60% of their gross weekly wages. A spokesperson for the company declined to say exactly how many Eataly employees would be eligible for the benefit. The Italian company has approximately 2,700 employees across four U.S. cities.

Read more here.
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Estée Lauder
Estée Lauder Companies in May expanded its paid parental leave policy to include 20 weeks of full pay, among other changes to its benefits package. The enhanced policy, which previously only covered 12 weeks of paid leave for birthing parents, six weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers and two weeks of paid leave for secondary caregivers, will be available to more than 11,000 U.S. employees after working for more than 90 days, according to Estée Lauder Co.

The New York City-based conglomerate, which owns brands such as Clinique, MAC Cosmetics and Origins, is also offering six weeks of back-to-work flexibility (in addition to six to eight weeks of short-term disability following childbirth); in-home back-up child, adult and elder care through Bright Horizons (in addition to an existing back-up child care at centers benefit); and an infant transition program. The company is also offering up to $10,000 of adoption assistance reimbursement. Eligible employees receive 15 back-up care visits per family member per year, according to the company.

Read more here.
Fenwick & West
Fenwick & West, a Mountain View, California-based law firm, announced in November a new paid parental leave policy will include 16 weeks of parental bonding time to all parents, regardless of gender or caregiver status.

“This expanded program was a direct reflection of ongoing dialogue with our professionals and takes into account their feedback,” says Gwen Bazella, Fenwick’s senior director of HR.

Read more here.
Foley Hoag
Boston-based law firm Foley Hoag expanded its parental leave policy this summer. The firm’s new policy now provides paid parental leave for up to 18 weeks to all parents, regardless of whether one is the primary caregiver or not. Previously, parents designated as a non-primary caregiver were offered just four weeks of paid leave.

The firm’s expanded policy also allows new parents to take the leave at any point during the 12 months following the birth or adoption of their child. All legal personnel who take paid parental leave will receive 100% of their base compensation.

Read more here.
A startup that seeks to reinvent the pet food industry with high-end dog food decided to offer a fresh take on its benefit package: stock ownership.

The organic cat and dog food manufacturer based in Secaucus, New Jersey, says it will grant its full-time employees equity in the company beginning next year. The restricted stock units will be distributed annually to full-time hourly employees who have worked at the company for at least a year. The shares Freshpet is offering will vest over a three-year period and employees will be eligible for additional stock every January.

Read more here.
General Mills
General Mills said this summer it is more than tripling the length of its paid maternity and parental leave policies, introducing paid caregiver leave and boosting its bereavement and short-term disability benefits.

As part of the benefit expansion, the maker of Betty Crocker cake mixes and other popular foodstuffs will hike paid leave for birth mothers from six weeks to 18 to 20 weeks and increase paid parental leave for fathers, partners and adoptive parents to 12 weeks from just two. The company, which employs 15,000 workers in the U.S., will also introduce a caregiver leave benefit, offering employees caring for immediate family members with a serious health condition a two-week paid leave.

Those changes will go into effect Jan. 1.

Read more here.
The Home Depot
The world’s largest home-improvement chain paid hourly workers a one-time cash bonus of as much as $1,000 earlier this year due to tax reform savings. Additionally, the retailer added a breast milk shipping service for its employees through provider Milk Stork.

Read more here.
H&M Bloomberg
Clothing retailer H&M said in November it will offer six weeks of paid parental leave to eligible part-time employees beginning in January.

That policy has been in effect for the company’s full-time employees since last year, but starting in the new year, all of the company’s 18,000 employees — including part-timers — who meet the requirements of one year of employment and 1,250 hours worked can receive the six weeks of parental leave.

The move extends its leave policy significantly as the majority of H&M’s employees — 10,000 people — are part-time workers.

Read more here.
Hostess Brands
In February, the bakery company known for its Twinkies and Ding Dongs offered employees bonuses in the form of cash and 401(k) contributions, as well as a year’s supply of Hostess products.

The bonus — which was paid to Hostess’ 1,036 hourly employees — consisted of $750 in cash and $500 toward 401(k) contributions. Meanwhile, the free snacks varied; Hostess selected a “product of the week” that it will give to each employee in a multi-pack.

Read more here.
The streaming media company this summer teamed up with student loan repayment provider Tuition.io to offer relief to its employees plagued by college debt obligations. Hulu now pays up to $1,200 a year per employee to match their student loan payments, says Taunya Post, Hulu’s director of human resources operations.

Read more here.
About 100,000 KFC employees now have access to personal finance coaching through a new perk offered by the KFC Foundation, a charitable arm of the fast food chain, whether they work for a franchise or corporate-owned location. The company rolled out the personal finance program, which works in partnership with Sum180, to KFC’s restaurant employees in March.

“One of the things we’re trying to tackle is taking a topic that can be very intimidating for pretty much everybody, regardless of your age, education or background,” says Krista Snider, managing director of the KFC Foundation. “Talking about your own personal finance situation is something people are hesitant to do.”

Read more here.
Kroger said in April it will spend about $130 million more per year on employee benefits, including a more generous 401(k) benefit and a new education-assistance perk that will allow both part- and full-time workers the chance to go back to school.

The supermarket giant, the country’s third largest employer, attributed the enhanced offerings to its estimated $400 million savings as a result of recent tax law changes.

Kroger’s new education benefit, called Feed Your Future, will offer employees up to $3,500 annually for continuing education and development, including a high school equivalency exam, professional certifications and advanced degrees. The benefit, which can run to $21,000 over the course of employment, will cover all full- and part-time associates after six months on the job.
In June, the company also increased its 401(k) match to 5%, up from 4%, for its nearly 500,000 employees.

Read more here.
The home improvement retailer expanded its maternity leave program for full-time workers to include 10 weeks of paid leave and added a new benefit of two weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents, both hourly and salaried workers. Lowe’s also added an adoption assistance benefit to its family-friendly benefits package; it covers up to $5,000 of expenses related to agency, legal and other fees.

It also handed out $1,000 cash bonuses to more than 260,000 hourly employees at the beginning of the year.

Read more here.
McDonald’s supersized its tuition assistance and widened the number of eligible employees for its “Archways to Opportunity” education program.

The fast food giant announced in March an investment of $150 million over five years that will give nearly 400,000 U.S. restaurant employees access to the program, which helps workers earn high school and college degrees, improve English skills and learn specialized workforce skills through a partnership with educational content company Cengage. The company also lowered employee eligibility requirements for the program: It’s now available to employees working 15 hours or more a week after 90 days of employment. Originally, the program was open to workers with shifts of 20 hours or more a week after nine months of employment.

Meanwhile, workers will receive $2,500 a year for education costs, up from $700, while eligible managers will receive $3,000 a year, up from $1,050, according to McDonald’s. McDonald’s also will extend some education benefits to restaurant employees’ family members.

Read more here.
Medical device company Medtronic implemented a new family care leave policy in May to better attract and retain its workforce.

The company’s 40,000 part-time and full-time employees, who are dispersed across the country, will have access to six weeks of paid leave for a range of family care leave needs. Employees can take leave to bond with a new child or care for a sick family member, for example. The benefit is in addition to maternity benefits for birth mothers, such as a two week healthy pregnancy program. The program, which is offered through Medtronic’s health plan, awards birth moms with two weeks of paid time off. Birth mothers can receive up to 18 weeks of fully-paid leave with all the available benefits.
Previously, Medtronic offered five to seven weeks of paid leave for birth parents, one week for non-birth parents, and four weeks for compassionate leave to care for or support a terminally ill family member.

Read more here.
The insurer earlier this year announced it was increasing the minimum contribution to its defined benefit pension plan, auto-enrolling its 401(k) plan participants and offering employer-paid legal services. MetLife says the changes were accelerated due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slashed the corporate rate to 21% from 35%. All full-time, salaried employees in the United States are eligible for the enhanced benefits.

More than 7,000 U.S. employees saw a 5% benefit to the cash balance formula of MetLife’s defined benefit pension plan, as the company set a minimum credit to $300 per month. Previously, the company did not have a minimum credit. Auto-enrollment and auto-escalation for the company’s 401(k) plan, along with immediate company match eligibility and vesting, will take place at the beginning of 2019.

Read more here.
MGM Resorts
The global entertainment company said this fall it has teamed up with the Nevada System of Higher Education to offer its U.S. employees a free online college education through NSHE schools. The participating schools include University of Nevada Las Vegas, University of Nevada Reno, Nevada State College, Great Basin College, Western Nevada College, College of Southern Nevada and Truckee Meadows Community College.

Read more here.
Nissan added breast milk shipping to its benefits package in early May.

The automobile company now expenses breast milk shipments through Milk Stork, a breast milk shipping company, to new mothers on assignment. Through Milk Stork, bottles and a breast pump will be waiting for employees once they arrive at their destination. Nursing mothers place the milk in a pharmaceutical-grade cooler, which has an internal mechanism that, once activated, keeps its contents chilled for up to 72 hours, according to Nissan. The milk is then shipped overnight.

“There are moms everywhere who are in this situation,” says Michelle Baron, vice president of human resources at Nissan North America. “Now, these people have a really cool option.”

Read more here.
Noodles & Company
The fast-casual pasta chain made a slew of benefits changes this year. In March, Noodles added six full weeks of fully paid maternity leave and two weeks of paternity leave for eligible employees. It also added $10,000 in adoption assistance, flexible time off for corporate team members and a breast milk shipment benefit that reimburses employees who travel for work if they need to ship breastmilk. It also began offering $1,000 in student loan debt assistance a year to general managers and give veterans paid time off on Veterans Day.

Amy Cohen, director of benefits and compensation at Noodles & Co, told EBN that the company wants to offer a benefits package that recognizes the importance of work-life balance, especially because female employees make up about 54% of the company’s workforce.

“Having great benefits is not [about] the benefit itself, but what it represents about the company,” Cohen said. “When you have locations across the country with 20 employees per location, it’s really hard to make sure our culture is being lived and embodied in all of our restaurants.”

In September, Noodles announced another rare benefit: Effective Jan. 1, qualifying expecting and postpartum mothers who work at the pasta restaurant chain will be able to phase-out and phase-in to their maternity leave, working an 80% schedule the four weeks before and the four weeks after maternity leave while receiving 100% pay, Noodles said.

The benefit, meant to be a buffer to help with the transition from pregnancy to motherhood, is in addition to six weeks of paid maternity leave. It’s available to employees with the titles of assistant general manager and above, the company says.

Read more here and here.
Peoples Bank
Peoples Bank, a Washington bank chain with $1.6 billion in assets under management, increased its 401(k) match by 1% and raised its minimum wage in wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

The bank, which has 430 salaried and hourly workers at 25 locations within a few counties in Washington, said in January it increased its 401(k) employee match to 8% of annual pay from 7% for all eligible employees. All employees over the age of 21 have access to the company’s 401(k) and its match, the company says. The 401(k) account is on a vesting schedule that increases by 20% over a five-year period, and employees are eligible for the match 90 calendar days after their start date.

Read more here.
Professional services giant PwC this summer announced a new program that allows new parents to work 60% of their normal schedule at full pay for the four weeks following parental leave.

“It can be difficult to go from zero time at the office to 100% back to work,” says Jennifer Allyn, diversity strategy leader at PwC. “We encourage everyone to take that transition.”

The policy update is part of a broader change to the firm’s family-friendly benefits, which now include updated parental and caregiving leave, along with adoption and surrogacy reimbursements.
More than 50,000 U.S. employees of the firm will have access to four weeks of paid family leave for caretakers and eight weeks of paid parental leave, up from six weeks. On average, birth moms at PwC can take up to 21 weeks of maternity leave through the parental leave policy, short-term disability, paid time off and unpaid leave.

Read more here.
Reynolds American
Tobacco giant Reynolds American said in October it is adding a 16-week paid parental leave benefit — with an additional period of flexible scheduling in the following eight months — for new mothers and fathers following the birth or placement of a new child. The new benefit — which applies to all 5,000 full-time paid hourly and salaried workers — will go into effect in January and is paid at 100% of employees’ salaries. Prior to updating its policy, Reynolds American offered 16 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

In addition to the 80 days of paid leave, parents also are eligible for up to 64 additional days over eight months through a flexible work arrangement. Candice Brown, vice president of talent and organizational effectiveness at Reynolds, says parents can use this time to create a flexible work schedule that meets their family’s needs. This could include working from home, working reduced hours or taking days off, she says.

Read more here.
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The international auction house said in October it will contribute $150 each month toward employees’ repayment of the principal amount of the debt, up to $1,800 per year, beginning Jan. 1. The program — which will be offered through student loan repayment platform Gradifi — has no lifetime limit. The company says it will cover employees for as long as they remain an eligible full-time U.S.-based employee of Sotheby’s with qualifying student loans.

[We] feel strongly about doing all that we can to make Sotheby’s a best-in-class workplace,” says Jill Bright, the company’s executive vice president of human resources and administration. “This is a benefit that differentiates us in the marketplace, particularly when student debt is on the mind of so many employees — both recent graduates and parents who have taken responsibility for their children’s debt.”
All eligible Sotheby’s U.S. employees who have outstanding student debt with an accredited loan organization — including former students or parents responsible for their children's debt — may participate in the repayment program, the company says.

The partnership with Gradifi also offers Sotheby’s employees access to advice on refinancing and college savings programs, among other related topics.

Read more here.
Starbucks said earlier this year it would spend $250 million on new employee benefits, including expanded leave benefits, in the wake of the federal tax overhaul.

Starbucks announced that it would add six weeks of paid parental leave for its hourly employees who become new dads, a benefit that had only previously been offered to new mothers and adoptive or foster parents. Employees of the coffee giant also will now be able to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, extending a benefit that had previously only been offered to employees where state law required it.

The coffee giant also announced in October it is offering subsidized childcare for all of its U.S. employees. The new benefit, a partnership with childcare provider Care.com Inc., will provide 10 subsidized backup daycare days for parents for instances when regular care falls through. In-home backup childcare will cost $1 an hour or $2 an hour after the 4th child. Care at a daycare center will cost $5 per day. Unlike some of Starbucks’s other benefits, which require employees to work 20 hours before they can access them, Care@Work is available to more than 180,000 U.S. employees, regardless of how much they work.

Read more here.
State Street 2
State Street
State Street earlier this year announced a significant revamp of its benefits package — including fertility benefits and increased adoption assistance — in an effort to help workers looking to start families.

The financial services firm consulted its employees in an effort to make a meaningful expansion to its benefits package, which now includes four weeks of fully paid leave for employees who are primary caregivers to a child born via surrogacy; $20,000 in reimbursement for fertility-related expenses beyond the firm’s medical plans, such as surrogacy; and $20,000 in reimbursement for adoption assistance (up from its previous reimbursement of $5,000). The company says the benefits can be used once per calendar year and employees are allowed up to $40,000 in lifetime financial support for these benefits combined.

Read more here.
SunTrust Bank
SunTrust Bank, a bank that operates 1,400 branches across the southeastern region, upgraded its benefits package and wages in January in response to the tax reform bill. More than 19,000 full-time employees received a one-time 1% increase to their 6% 401(k) match, as well as be eligible for a $1,000 financial incentive after completing the company’s financial fitness program.

Read more here.
Taco Bell
The Mexican-inspired fast food chain in May expanded its 700-restaurant pilot with Guild Education — a technology company that connects workers to college prep and high school completion programs universities as an education benefit strategy — to 210,000 workers at 7,000 locations, including some franchises.

Through Guild Education’s reduced-cost courses and degree programs, both corporate and hourly Taco Bell workers have access to more than 2,000 classes and programs in their pursuit of undergraduate or graduate degrees, college-level education, a GED, or mastery of English as a second language. Combined with the company’s education benefit of up to $5,250 in tuition assistance, paid upfront, and access to federal financial aid, employees are expected to pay little to nothing for the benefit.

Read more here.
Financial services firm TIAA expanded its paid parental leave to 16 weeks, up from 12 weeks of partial paid leave, and broadened it to include secondary caregivers.

The policy became effective Jan. 1, giving all new parents at the New-York based firm — regardless of gender, physically birthing the child or who the primary or secondary caregiver is — access to 16 weeks of paid leave. The company expects 350 to 400 of its 12,000 eligible employees will use these benefits in any given year.

Read more here.
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia said in September it will soon offer up to eight weeks of paid parental leave to full-time employees following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

The benefit will be offered to both mothers and fathers starting in January. It will paid at 100% of an employee’s base salary in the six months following the arrival of a child. The leave will be prorated based on the employee’s hours worked; an individual working 30 hours per week will receive 75% of the benefit or six weeks, while those working 40 hours will receive the full eight weeks.

Approximately 18,000 employees are eligible for the benefit, and it will be offered to employees who have been working at the university for at least one year. Wage employees are not eligible.

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Unum implemented a six-week paid parental leave policy this year. New moms and dads employed at the insurance company are eligible for six weeks of paid time off to care for a newborn, or a child placed through adoption or foster care, at any time during the 12 months following birth, adoption or fostering. There was previously no formal paid leave policy in place. The company has roughly 10,000 employees.

The change in policy, Garofalo says, is part of an effort to “help employees achieve greater work-life balance and to help ease their worries about raising their families,” says Diane Garofalo, the firm’s senior vice president of corporate human resources.

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U.S. Xpress
Trucking company U.S. Xpress Enterprises — which employs more than 7,000 drivers across the country — in September announced free tuition in a bid to lure and keep more drivers behind the wheel of its trucks. That historically has been a huge problem: Like most trucking companies, U.S. Xpress has a nearly 100% annual turnover rate among its drivers, requiring the company to recruit, hire and train about 7,500 drivers every year.

“We believe the [tuition] program will attract people to our industry who may have not previously thought about driving a truck,” says CEO Eric Fuller, adding that it typically costs the company more than $5,000 to recruit and train a new driver.

U.S. Xpress partnered directly with Ashford University to allow its employees — as well as their children — the opportunity to earn an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field of their choice at no cost through online courses offered by the school.

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The credit card giant told employees in early January that it would start matching 200% of an employee’s contributions to the company 401(k) plan up to 5% of the individual’s salary. The benefit applies to all U.S. employees except those on the executive committee. Previously, Visa employees received a match on 3% of their salary. The benefit began in February.

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Walmart in January announced a slew of changes to its employee benefits package, including expanded parental and maternity leave, a new adoption benefit and one-time employee bonuses.

The retailer expanded its U.S. leave policy to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Salaried associates also now receive six weeks of paid parental leave. Previously, full-time hourly workers were eligible for up to eight weeks of paid maternity leave and two weeks of paid parental leave, while hourly workers received half pay during family leave. The benefit also applies to parents who adopt, Walmart says.

The retailer also created a new benefit to assist employees who are adopting a child. The adoption benefit, available to both full-time hourly and salaried associates, will total $5,000 per child and may be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal or court costs. Walmart also gave eligible hourly employees a one-time bonus — ranging from $200 to $1,000 — earlier this year.

In May, Walmart said its 1.5 million employees can now pursue associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in business or supply-chain management at three nonprofit schools for $1 a day. Walmart subsidizes tuition, books and fees and provide support with the application and enrollment processes. All Walmart and Sam’s Club workers in the U.S. will be eligible as soon as they’ve been with the company for 90 days. It applies to all part-time, full-time and salaried employees.

Read more here and here.