American Express has established a parent concierge program to help employees who are new parents take advantage of the firm’s parental leave program.
The financial giant offers 20 weeks of paid parental leave to mothers and fathers who are full and part-time workers of the company, according to Tammy Yee, American Express’ vice president of benefits and mobility, who spoke this week at EBN’s Benefits Forum & Expo in Boca Raton, Fla.
To help employees during a stressful time of new adjustments, American Express established a parent concierge program this year to help employees with what Yee calls “the ABCs around parental leave.”
The concierge is tasked with answering questions and easing concerns of new parents. They not only offer advice to nursing mothers, they also help managers and supervisors interact with new parents about the new challenges that may impact their workload, Yee said.
The parent concierge can address issues ranging from, “’I’m just starting to think about starting a family’ or ‘I’m pregnant with my second child’ to ‘what exactly is a leave, what do I have in terms of health benefits and financial wellness benefits and then all the way to coming back to work,’” she said.
“It’s really important to have access to someone with those answers so that when you're already back to work or you are coming back, you understand your options,” Yee said.
The concierge also can work as an informal liaison between the parent and their manager. “We have a number of programs and guidelines for workers and their leaders, and this is often a missing factor in the equation … that when the employees go on leave, there is an impact to the team,” she said.
“It’s a great and exciting positive time but some leaders don’t know how to handle certain situations, like, ‘How do I handle my team members wanting to take a break for nursing in the lactation room, and how do I talk about the workload?’” she said.
The parent concierge can reach out to the employee and the manager and establish some guidelines, according to Yee. American Express hires lactation experts, for example, to help new mothers schedule and manage their nursing routines.
The parent concierge also can help the new mother answer any questions about easing into work and solving news childcare concerns. This service also is available to parents who are adopting and need to take time when the child enters the employee’s life for the first time.
“We offer the same amount of time off for surrogacy, and we spoke with employees, and found that sometimes surrogacy and adoptions quite long as someone trying to become pregnant,” she said.
Waldorf Astoria is offering extended family leave services this year, according to Maria Burns, Director of HR, Boca Raton Resort and Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, who also spoke at the panel session.
“We were responding to the survey response from our team members,” she said. “We didn’t know much about parental leave and adoption and we have created paid leave and adoption service programs.”
So far, the employees have responded positively to the new parental programs. Burns refers to the “Boca Babies” who have been part of this program. She says the hotel and resort company plans to adoption services as well.
For American Express’s Yee, the new programs have helped with company morale. She noted the mental, physical benefits, and the fact that when new mothers take longer leaves, it reduces the occurrence of postpartum depression.
“Parents have more time with their children, they get more vaccinations,” Yee said. “And when men have a longer leave, it has a positive role. Women can advance their careers and it is good news for everyone.”
“Parents are coming back to the workforce, more productive and more loyal to the company.”
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