IBM beefs up family benefits, doubles paid parental leave

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IBM is doubling its paid parental leave policy and beefing up a slew of other family benefits for new moms and dads.

The tech giant announced Wednesday that paid parental leave for new mothers is increasing from 14 to 20 weeks, while fathers, partners and adoptive parents will get a boost from six to 12 weeks. The extended leave applies to both full- and part-time U.S. workers, and retroactively applies to parents whose children were born after November 2016. IBM said employees can choose to take the bonding leave any time during the first year after the birth or adoption.

The company has about 340,000 employees worldwide, and an estimated 100,000 workers in the U.S. [IBM declined to disclose the exact number.]

Barbara Brickmeier, vice president of benefits at IBM, announced the changes in a company blog post, citing the firm’s commitment to addressing employees’ evolving needs.

“Just as families and the demands of parenting have changed, so have the expectations of employees. There’s no one-size-fits–all approach for parents balancing family and work every day of their lives,” she wrote. “It’s important for IBM to reinvent family-friendly programs to address the needs of today’s parents. It’s among the many reasons IBM attracts and retains top talent.”

In addition to boosting parental leave, IBM announced it will reimburse up to $20,000 for eligible adoption or surrogacy expenses — a significant increase from the previous $5,000 benefit — including medical costs associated with surrogate birth mothers. IBM’s Special Care for Children Assistance Plan will also reimburse workers $50,000 for services for a child who might have mental, developmental or physical disabilities, the firm said.

Additionally, the tech giant is expanding a program for mothers who are traveling abroad for work to let them ship breast milk home for free using temperature-controlled packaging. Previously the program was available only to mothers traveling within the U.S., but it now has expanded to include international travel. The firm also is expanding expectant mother parking to IBM locations across 50 states and offering discounts for childcare centers and after-school centers across the U.S.

IBM’s announcement is the latest in a string of updated benefits policies regarding family leave. Energy management and automation company Schneider Electric recently announced it is launching a new paid global family leave policy that will be rolled out across its 100 worldwide operating locations by January 2019. Primary caregivers at Schneider will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, and secondary caregivers can take up to two weeks of paid time off.

John Hopkins University, TD Bank, BASF, American Express, Ikea, Bank of America and Indiana University have boosted family-leave policies in the last year, many citing the growing importance of work-life balance for employees.

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