Work-life balance? More like work-life integration

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Tilson Technology Management added four new leave policies to its benefits offerings in hopes of attracting new talent.

The Portland, Maine-based telecommunications company is now providing paid benefits for military leave and gradual return-to-work. It also updated its paid maternal leave policy to cover both parents, and introduced unpaid caregiving leave. Tilson’s 550 U.S. employees were notified of the changes on March 18.

“We strongly believe our improved leave policies will afford current Tilson employees the valuable time they need with their families at critical times in their lives,” says Tilson CEO Joshua Broder. “Tilson is committed to providing the flexibility to team members while continuing to support dynamic career opportunities and development.”

Adria Horn, vice president of workforce at Tilson, says the company has always had flexible leave policies, but felt it was time to clarify them. Executives also decided to expand the company’s paid leave policies following a workforce growth spurt — over a year ago, the company went from 100 to 550 employees, Horn said. The company plans to continue growing its workforce, and executives are hoping the new leave benefits will attract and retain talent, she says.

“It’s important to have work-life balance, but we see it as work-life integration,” Horn says. “We hire amazing people, and we want our employees to understand we value their contributions. And we felt there was a better way to show them that.”

Tilson’s new military policy provides 15 days of fully paid leave to members of the Reserves and National Guard. Paid leave for active military isn’t typical of the private sector, Horn said. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) ensures military men and women can return to their civilian jobs after their service, but it doesn’t require employers to provide paid leave. Public sector jobs automatically provide paid military leave, but private sector companies have the discretion to choose whether or not to offer it.

Horn, who also serves in the Army Reserves, says military personnel are compensated by the U.S. government for their service; but for many lower ranking soldiers, payment is often late and less than what they receive at their civilian job.

“[Military employees] still have bills to pay while they’re gone,” Horn says. “We [added paid leave] in the effort to make sure we support our military employees by making it a non-issue.”

Tilson also rolled out a gradual return to work program, where approved employees receive three weeks of full-time pay while working part-time. The benefit was designed for employees who’ve been out of the office for over 12 weeks, due to disability or parental leave. Horn said an employee is currently using the benefit after participating in an addiction rehabilitation program.

“Some people don’t choose recovery because they need the money,” Horn says. “We value you as an employee, and we want you to come back healthy and in a way that helps you and the company at the same time.”

While Congress is busy debating whether to fund federal paid parental leave through Social Security or a new bipartisan bill, employers are rolling out their own programs to stay competitive in the hunt for talent. Some of the most recent employers to add a parental leave policy include VF Corp, Reynolds American, Eataly, XPO Logistics and Unum – Tilson just joined their ranks.

Tilson rebranded its maternity leave benefits as parental leave. The previous policy provided new mothers with 12 weeks of paid leave, at 60% of their salary; the new policy covers employees and their spouse. Under the new program, the child’s primary caregiver receives 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave. While the other, non-primary, parent is eligible for four weeks of paid leave. Determining which parent is the primary caregiver is “a family decision,” Horn says.

“We have lots of non-traditional families and don’t want them to feel excluded by gender specific language,” Horn says. “They should be able to choose whatever works best for their family.”

The final change to Tilson’s leave policy is unpaid, but it covers workers who don’t qualify for FMLA-mandated leave. Called the caregiving provision, Tilson’s new policy offers employees two weeks of unpaid leave. Caring for an elderly parent or a sick pet, for example, are situations where employees are encouraged to use the policy, Horn says.

“Caregiving is caregiving; what that includes is your personal interpretation,” Horn says. “We don’t want [employees] to feel like they can’t meet their personal obligations because of work.”

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