Slideshow 27 companies that made big benefits changes in 2017

  • December 28 2017, 11:05am EST
28 Images Total

27 companies that made big benefits changes in 2017

Beefing up paid parental leave policies. Implementing student loan repayment programs. Enhancing caregiving benefits. These are among the changes some big-name firms — including BASF, Facebook, Mastercard and TD Bank — made this year to their employee benefit packages. Here is a look at notable changes made by companies in 2017.

American Express

American Express began 2017 with perks that made life sweeter for its 21,000 U.S.-based employees.

All of its U.S.-based regular full-time and part-time employees are eligible for 20 weeks of paid parental leave as well as a bevy of enhanced employee benefits for fertility, surrogacy and adoption. It was a big change: Previously, the company offered primary caregivers six weeks of paid parental leave benefits and two weeks for secondary caregivers.

In addition, the company increased its employee benefits for fertility, surrogacy, adoption and lactation.

Benefits include:
· Up to $35,000 per adoption or surrogacy event (up to a maximum of two events per employee) to help with the cost of surrogacy or adoption
· A lifetime maximum of $35,000 for infertility treatment, including advanced reproductive technology procedures, available under the company’s health plans
· Free 24-hour access to board-certified lactation consultants
· Free breast-milk shipping while traveling on company business

Read more here.

Content Continues Below


Global chemical company BASF started off 2017 with a plethora of enhanced family leave benefits for its employees.

The company boosted paid parental leave to eight weeks for all new parents — maternal, paternal and adoptive. For new moms, that’s in addition to the typical six to eight weeks of short-term disability already available. The new policy went into effect Jan. 1. It was a significant change: Previously, BASF had a 12-week, unpaid, job-protected parental leave, and new fathers had no paid time off.

BASF also now pays the first five days of Family Medical Leave to allow employees to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Finally, the company ramped up its bereavement leave policy: Employees will be able to take up to 10 paid days (80 hours) of leave after the loss of an immediate family member and five days for a close relative. Previously, BASF employees had 3-5 days leave for the death of a family member.

Read more here.

Ben & Jerry’s

Employees of Ben & Jerry’s get more perks than just free ice cream on the job — they also get access to online courses that aim to improve professional and personal development.

The ice cream chain, known for its progressive values and laid-back flavors like Cherry Garcia and Phish Food, this summer beefed up its curriculum program, called Core Academy, in which employees enroll in four- or five-week skills-based courses on subjects like activism and emotional intelligence. The program is in partnership with Champlain College, a private university in Burlington, Vermont.

The benefit comes at a time when other employers with workforces largely made up of minimum-wage and first-time employees are expanding their education offerings.

Read more here.


Following promising employee feedback on its expanded education benefits in 2015, Chipotle Mexican Grill took another step to higher education accessibility this year: It added the University of Denver to its roster of more than 80 colleges and universities to which employees have access through a partnership with Guild Education, a technology company that connects workers to universities as an education benefit strategy.

Through Guild Education’s reduced-cost courses and degree programs, both hourly and salaried Chipotle employees have access to more than 2,000 classes and programs in their pursuit of undergraduate or graduate degrees, college-level education, a GED, or mastery of English as a second language. Combined with the Mexican chain’s education benefit of up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement, employees can pay as little as $250 per year to take college courses.

Since the benefit became available to the entire workforce in 2015, Chipotle has provided financial assistance to nearly 3,500 employees. The partnership with Guild Education, which began in 2016, also aims to help Chipotle in retaining employees — a common problem in the food industry, which deals with a lot of turnover.

Read more here.

Content Continues Below


Multinational technology company Cisco in November updated its global leave program to be more inclusive for family members caring for a new baby, as well as provide extra emergency time off for its employees.

The new policy terminates maternity and paternity leave, instead expanding the firm’s definition of parent to “main and supporting caregiver” — a gender-neutral term, the company says — for its full- and part-time employees. In the United States, main caregivers will now receive 13 weeks of consecutive leave, up from just four weeks, and unlimited paid time off for all appointments. The updated policy includes the existing benefit of four weeks of leave with time off for appointments for supporting caregivers, as well.

Grandparents will also now receive three days of PTO following a baby joining the family. The policy went into effect Nov. 1.

The expanded caregiver leave benefit has been rolled out to 37,000 U.S. employees, while more than 33,000 additional employees globally will receive the benefit in fiscal year 2019.

Cisco’s new leave policy also includes additional time off for emergencies. The company says it recognizes that unexpected situations may arise and employees need time to give it their undivided attention. The emergency time off request, which can be for incidents like a tree falling through an employee’s roof or a family member falling ill, is approved by a manager at his or her discretion.

Read more here.

City of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh announced in October it is now offering gender affirmation surgery to city employees and their dependents.

The benefit, announced Oct. 19 by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, will apply to those enrolled in the city’s medical insurance plan. It’s the latest addition to the City of Pittsburgh’s robust employee benefits package, which includes mental health and hormonal therapy benefits for LGBT employees.

Read more here.

Downs Rachlin

New England law firm Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC adopted a paid parental leave policy that will give new parents up to 12 weeks off. The policy, which went into effect June 19, will be combined with the firm’s short-term disability to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to mothers of newborn children and up to six weeks of leave to fathers and partners of birth mothers; parents of adopted children aged 16 and younger can also apply for six weeks of paid leave.

The paid parental leave policy is an addition to the firm’s benefits package, which includes a 50% 401(k) employer match; a 10% contribution of every employee’s annual compensation to a profit sharing plan; medical, dental, life and disability insurance; and access to a medical savings account, wellness benefits, employee assistance program and personal financial planning.

Read more here.

Content Continues Below


The social media giant announced in February it expanded bereavement leave to 20 days (up from 10 days) for an immediate family member and 10 days for an extended family member. The company also is expanding family leave up to six weeks to enable employees to care for sick family members.

Read more here.

Fifth Third Bank

Fifth Third Bank is aiming to make it easy for its employees to plan a baby shower or figure out which breast pump to buy. The financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati, added a maternity concierge program to its family-friendly benefits package earlier this year.

The program, which rolled out in January, helps new and expecting moms focus on their work duties while delegating baby-related tasks to a concierge. Support lasts for two years, from conception to the child’s first birthday.

Read more here.


Hilton enhanced its employee education assistance program earlier this year to include education company Cengage’s Career Online High School program. The program aims to help more than 5,000 eligible Hilton workers receive their accredited high school diplomas; the program is different than a traditional GED program.

Graduates of the program also can opt into earning a credentialed career certificate in one of four fields — general career preparation, office management, food and hospitality, and retail customer service; or one of four careers — childcare and education, commercial driving, homeland security and certified protection officer. Cengage says more than more than 80% of graduates self-report they plan to enroll in additional post-secondary training upon completing COHS. Hilton’s employee education assistance program, which includes a tuition reimbursement benefit, provides up to $1,000 to each employee annually.

Read more here.

Content Continues Below


IBM doubled its paid parental leave policy and beefed up a slew of other family benefits for new moms and dads this fall. The tech giant announced in late October that paid parental leave for new mothers increased from 14 to 20 weeks, while fathers, partners and adoptive parents got 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.]

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.

Read more here.


Ikea significantly expanded its paid parental leave benefits at the beginning of the year. The furniture retailer now provides up to four months paid parental leave for all U.S. employees — salaried and hourly workers, mothers and fathers, and adoptive and foster parents. Workers who have been with the company for a year will get six weeks of leave at full pay, followed by six weeks at half pay. Workers who have been with the company for three years will be eligible for eight weeks at full pay, followed by eight weeks at half pay. The policy kicked in Jan. 1.

Additionally, Ikea introduced a sabbatical program for employees to take time to “refresh and engage in personal and professional growth and development.”

Employees who have been with Ikea for seven years can take off three months of unpaid time for any reason they wish, with their position guaranteed when they return. For employees who have been with the company even longer, the benefits are even better: Employees with 11 years at the company can take a sabbatical up to six months, and for those with 15 years at Ikea, a sabbatical can last a full year.

Read more here.

Indiana University

Indiana University began offering six weeks of paid parental leave on July 1 for full-time staff after a birth or adoption. About 23,000 faculty and staff who are in regular employment — 35 hours a week — and have been working within the university system for at least a year will be eligible for the benefit. It applies to both new mothers and fathers.

The benefit will run concurrently with the Family and Medical Leave Act and can be used on an intermittent basis; however, it must be used within six months following the birth or adoption, according to the university.

Read more here.

Content Continues Below

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University beefed up its family-friendly benefits for its employees, introducing a new paid parental leave policy and increasing financial assistance for adoption. The new leave policy, which kicked in July 1, includes four weeks of paid family leave for full- and part-time staff after a birth or adoption, in addition to six weeks of paid birth recovery leave for new moms. These benefits are offered to employees who have worked for the university for at least a year and will run concurrently with FMLA.

The university’s new policy also triples the reimbursement rate to help employees with expenses related to adoption — from $5,000 to $15,000.

Read more here.

Kelleher & Buckley

Kelleher & Buckley LLC, a law firm located in the suburbs of Chicago, added a cancer genomic profiling program to its 48 employees this fall. Employees receive a certificate for genomic testing through Wamberg Genomic Advisors, a California-based firm that works with U.S. labs to conduct therapeutic tests. The new benefit is part of the firm’s “robust package,” which includes health insurance, dental, long-term disability, life insurance and voluntary life.

Read more here.


Lowe’s expanded its concierge service benefit in November to help employees through open enrollment. The home improvement store partnered with healthcare concierge company Accolade to give full-time, benefit-eligible employees comprehensive benefits support. Employees can reach out to Accolade “health assistants” as a first point-of-contact for their benefits questions, which includes value-based price transparency advice, telemedicine, expert second opinion, pre-diabetic weight-loss solutions, no-cost diabetic support, on-site clinics, maternity programs and mobile screening units.

Although the company says it helped a number of Lowe’s employees and their families enroll from Oct. 9 to Oct. 27 for 2018 open enrollment, the benefit will kick in with the full-time, self-insured population in January 2018.

Read more here.

Content Continues Below


Mastercard is giving its employees more time off to grieve the loss of family members. The credit card giant announced in the summer it extended its bereavement policy, making all of its 10,000-plus employees eligible for up to four weeks of paid time off.

Employees will be able to take up to 20 days for the loss of a spouse, domestic partner or child, 10 days for the loss of a parent, grandparent or sibling and five days for all other extended family, including aunts and uncles. Previously, U.S. employees of the company were given five days of leave for the loss of a family member, with the option for up to an additional 10 days for a spouse, partner or child, for a total of 15 days. Outside the U.S., the leave policy varied across each country and in most cases was less than five days. The changes make the policy universal for all global employees.

Read more here.


McDonald’s employees have the opportunity to finish their studies and earn a diploma, not a GED, through the “Archways to Opportunity” employee education program, in collaboration with educational content company Cengage.

About 100 employees have recently earned their high school diploma through the 18-month program, which started in 2015, and more than 800 employees are in the process of getting their diplomas. About 40% of McDonald’s employees do not have, or are working toward, their high school diploma, and 20% to 25% of those employees are store managers.

The 18-credit program, which costs $1,295 per student, offers four elective courses and then turns those classes into entry-level workforce tracks, such as restaurant and safety, retail and customer service, and child development. From there, employees are ready to take academic classes with a newfound confidence from excelling in their elective courses.

Read more here.


Social media giant Pinterest enhanced its workplace benefit offerings in July to help its employees start families.

Since July 1, Pinterest employees received access to up to $5,000 in adoption reimbursement and up to $20,000 for surrogacy benefits, which can be used to cover costs “associated with everything from travel to agency and legal fees, [plus] any other related expenses,” according to the company. The company already provides parental leave of 16 weeks, plus a four-week transition, as well as fertility benefits of up to $20,000. Pinterest has about 500 employees.

Read more here.

Content Continues Below


This summer, Microsoft 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 — added four weeks of paid caregiving leave, with an eight additional weeks of unpaid time, for its employees. Previously, the company offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Read more here.

MidWestOne Bank

MidWestOne Bank, which operates 44 branches in five states, upgraded its student loan debt reduction benefit to include part-time employees. The benefit, which launched in May in collaboration with, provides about 103 employees with $50 to $100 per month for student loan repayment, says Cathi Weber, vice president of HR at MidWestOne Bank, who works out of its Minneapolis office.

MidWestOne’s headquarters are based in Iowa City, IA. Full-time employees who have been at the company for more than four years receive $100 a month, with a $10,000 lifetime cap, while full-time employees with less than four years at the bank receive $75 a month. Those employees will receive the full $100 when they enter their fifth year with the bank, Weber says.

Read more here.

New York Life

This fall, New York Life added a new benefit to help its employees pay down their student loans.

For employees who took on student loans for their education, the benefit will provide them with up to $10,200 over five years as well as student loan advice and online planning tools. New York Life employees who took out loans for their children will be able to access counseling and resources to guide them through the repayment process. Eligible employees will be able to access this benefit — which is administered by provider Student Loan Genius — upon employment, the company says.

Read more here.

Content Continues Below

Outcome Health

Outcome Health, a Chicago-based health information provider, earlier this year rolled out a new customized benefits package for its employees. The “Care@ Outcome Health” package includes benefits from seven key pillars — health, time away, finance, family, convenience, learning and growth and community — as dictated by the firm’s employees in a survey. Outcome Health’s 600 employees can pick and choose which benefits work for them and customize their package without any limits.

The benefits range from standard but generous employer benefits like 401(k) packages and a match of 50% for the first 6% of employee contributions, 100% paid parental leave up to 16 weeks, and health dental and vision to innovative options such as $10,000 of fertility treatment financing, one week of marriage leave and survivor benefits for employee dependents.

Read more here.

Shearman & Sterling

Multinational law firm Shearman & Sterling this fall boosted its parental leave policy, increasing paid primary caregiver leave to 20 weeks for all U.S. lawyers. Previously the general practice firm, headquartered in New York City, which employs about 850 lawyers, gave primary caregivers 18 weeks of maternity leave.

In addition to the change to the policy for U.S.-based lawyers, Shearman & Sterling also significantly increased primary caregiver leave for its U.S. business services staff. Those employees now can take 14 weeks of paid time off, up from zero weeks for hourly employees and six weeks for salaried staff. For secondary caregivers, the firm will provide eight weeks of paid new childcare leave for lawyers and business services, regardless of the parent’s gender, following a birth, foster or adoption. Shearman & Sterling had previously offered four weeks of paid paternity leave.

Read more here.


The music-streaming giant in November launched a flexible public holidays program in an effort to better accommodate its diverse workforce.

About 3,500 Spotify employees of 90 nationalities in the United States and Sweden are no longer mandated to take off on public holidays; rather, they can pick and choose which days they want to work and take off.

“Our new policy is designed to give our employees the flexibility and freedom to celebrate the values and beliefs that they hold close to heart,” says Katarina Berg, Spotify’s chief human resources officer. “Everyone has the right to celebrate and feel included, regardless of who they are, what they believe, where they come from, and what country they happen to work in at the moment."

Read more here.

Content Continues Below

TD Bank

TD Bank implemented an entirely new parental leave benefit for its employees this year. It now offers 16 weeks of paid leave to all parents — men and women — welcoming a new child by birth or adoption.

The policy, which went into effect June 7, also includes primary and secondary caregiver eligibility, regardless of gender, and job protection during leave. It’s a significant change: Formerly, employees of the financial institution took a combination of short term disability and Family Medical Leave Act.

TD says the new policy for its 26,000-plus employees is “among the most generous in the financial services industry and is in line with TD’s commitment to ensuring women and men across diverse communities have every opportunity to be successful in their careers at TD while making family a priority.”

Read more here.


Investment advisory firm TIAA added reciprocal IVF assistance to its family planning benefits package as an LGBT inclusion measure July 1. The New York City-based firm added the benefit after conversations with its LGBT employee resource group during Pride Month in June.

“The addition of reciprocal IVF [meaning one partner supplies the eggs to be used for IVF, while the other partner is the gestational carrier of the pregnancy] could significantly help female couples achieve their family planning goals, and we want to provide them with the same support other employees already receive,” says Skip Spriggs, senior executive vice president and chief human resources officer at TIAA. “It wasn’t a cost issue, but it was about creating the right environment.”

Prior to this benefits addition, employees had to go through a pre-certification process with a claims administrator to verify infertility, says TIAA. Now, employees can have IVF services covered without verifying that they tried natural or artificial insemination. Similarly, female couples don’t have to provide infertility to gain access to IVF as a covered benefit, the firm says.

Read more here.