Walmart adds adoption benefit, expands parental leave

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Walmart announced Thursday a slew of changes to its employee benefits package, including expanded parental and maternity leave, a new adoption benefit and one-time employee bonuses.

The retailer is the latest in a string of employers to announce enhancements to benefits while citing the financial incentives of the tax reform bill.

“We are early in the stages of assessing the opportunities tax reform creates for us to invest in our customers and associates and to further strengthen our business, all of which should benefit our shareholders,” Walmart’s president and CEO, Doug McMillion, said in a statement.

Walmart will expand its U.S. leave policy to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Salaried associates also will receive six weeks of paid parental leave. Previously, full-time hourly workers were eligible for up to eight weeks of paid maternity leave and two weeks of paid parental leave, while hourly workers received half pay during family leave. The benefit also applies to parents who adopt, Walmart said.

The retailer is creating a new benefit to assist employees who are adopting a child. The adoption benefit, available to both full-time hourly and salaried associates, will total $5,000 per child and may be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal or court costs.

In a blog posted on the company’s website, McMillion said he wanted the new benefits to address employees’ concerns over what they called a “limited” adoption policy.

“I recently heard from two associates on this topic — one through an open door note and one at a town hall,” he wrote. “Both pointed out how limited our policy was for adoptive parents, so we’re happy to be addressing that concern now. Families are a priority to us and connecting with and caring for a new family member is obviously important.”

Walmart’s new perks also include a one-time bonus — ranging from $200 to $1,000 — for eligible hourly associates. Bonuses will be determined by an employee’s length of service; workers with more than 20 years of experience will qualify to receive the full $1,000.

Along with boosting benefits, Walmart announced it is increasing its starting wage rate for hourly employees in the U.S. from $9 to $11.

The changes, which the company says will benefit more than 1 million employees, will go into effect as soon as February.

A number of other employers have announced benefits changes since the new year in response to the tax reform bill, which slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.

Visa said it would start matching 200% of an employee’s contributions to the company 401(k) plan up to 5% of the individual’s salary. Currently, Visa employees receive a match on 3% of their salary. Aflac also boosted its retirement plan, increasing its match to 100% on the first 4% of employee contributions to the company’s 401(k) plan. That’s double its previous match of 50% of an individual’s first 6% in contributions to the plan.

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