Microsoft introduces family caregiver leave benefit

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Microsoft has upped the ante on its already-enviable employee benefits package by adding paid leave for employees who need to take care of an ailing family member.

The tech giant — which in 2015 added 12 weeks of parental leave for new mothers and fathers — is now offering four weeks of paid caregiving leave, with an eight additional weeks of unpaid time. Previously, the company offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The benefit has been available for U.S. employees since late June, the company said.

“This important new benefit represents a significant milestone in our effort to build a culture of diversity and inclusion, and it demonstrates our deep commitment to employee wellbeing and care, and respect for the full career journey,” Microsoft’s chief people officer, Kathleen Hogan, said in a LinkedIn post announcing the benefit.

Hogan said her experience battling breast cancer was among the reasons she thought more about the importance of caregiving benefits. She said she “met many other cancer patients whose situations required family members to dedicate countless hours to support their treatment plans and stand at their sides.”

The company’s new benefit applies to employees who have an immediate family member with a serious health condition. It’s available now to Microsoft employees in 22 countries and will expand worldwide over the next six months to cover all of the company’s 121,000 global employees, the firm said.

See also: Caregiving benefits growing in popularity

It’s the latest in a string of announcements from large employers regarding paid leave. TD Bank, American Express, Ikea, Bank of America and Indiana University are among the companies that boosted paid leave policies in the last year, with many citing the growing importance of work-life balance for employees.

Paid caregiving leave has been a less common offering than parental leave, but it’s been growing in popularity. Facebook implemented a six-week caregiver leave this year.

According to recent research from the Northeast Business Group on Health and AARP, caregiving is among the top 10 employee health and wellness benefits priorities for employers, and most employers agree that in the next five years, caregiving is going to become an increasingly important issue among employees.

“As I hear from employees who are in the sandwich generation — those caring for children at home while thinking about aging parents who may one day need support — I am keenly aware that these employees may face the decision of how to prioritize work while caring for a family member,” Hogan said. “In all these scenarios — the birth of a child, one’s own health needs, or the needs of a close family member — one thing is certain: Employees need flexibility and support to make a decision that’s best for them.”

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