Sweetgreen dresses up its paid leave benefits

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Sweetgreen is the latest employer to expand its paid parental leave policy. The health-food chain announced on Tuesday that it has updated its offering to give new mothers and fathers five months of fully paid leave after the birth of their child. The benefit also extends to adoptive and foster parents, the company said in a blog post.

“We have updated our parental leave policy to provide a more just benefit to all parents, creating a new standard in the restaurant industry. We believe it is our responsibility to lead the way given the U.S. is one of the few countries that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents,” Sweetgreen wrote in the blog, signed by its three co-founders, Nathaniel Ru, Nicholas Jammet and Jonathan Nemen.

Sweetgreen is not alone — a growing list of companies across a variety of industries are investing in paid time off benefits for new parents. For instance, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Advance Financial and Bloomberg, are just a few of the companies that have recently made changes to these offerings.

While there is still no federal mandate, in his state of the union address in February, President Donald Trump called for federal paid family leave, saying his plan would allow every new parent a "chance to bond with their newborn child.” While American parents are guaranteed time off from work to spend with a newborn child under the Family and Medical Leave Act — they often have to make it work without a paycheck. Some states including Washington and California, do have laws requiring family leave.

See also: Employers rally behind proposed legislation protecting pregnant workers

Meanwhile, the number of employers providing paid parental leave jumped 10 percentage points to 27% between 2016 and 2018, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management. Employers also bolstered their leave for maternity, paternity, adoption, surrogacy and fostering. But despite this jump, larger organizations are still significantly more likely to offer these benefits than smaller ones, SHRM reports.

Restaurant employees are even less likely to receive these benefits. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that only 8% of private sector food service workers have access to paid family leave. But some employers in the industry have taken steps to update their policies. For example, Italian marketplace and food hall chain Eataly began offering eight weeks of paid parental leave to mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child. Noodles & Company also beefed up its policy last year.

See also: Hewlett Packard Enterprise adds 6 months of paid parental leave

Sweetgreen did not immediately respond to a request for comment on additional details of the policy and other family-friendly benefit offerings. In the blog post, the company did say it hopes that its new policy will encourage other employers to think about making similar moves with their paid leave policies.

“This move is rare for our industry and we hope this creates a conversation for other companies to join,” the company wrote. “In addition to parental leave, competitive pay and the opportunity for equity for our head coaches, we are radically dedicated to building a positive company culture.”

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