How Charlotte employers stack up for prospective parents

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Which Charlotte employers have the best parental leave policies? We found out for you.

As Charlotte’s largest employers and fastest-growing startups compete for talent, some of them are now offering up generous parental leave policies — and not just for moms.

We polled more than 2,000 Charlotteans to find out what employers are offering for maternity and paternity leave, then we followed up with the companies to get full details.

Like a lot of things in Charlotte, big banks are at the forefront.

Financial companies are offering some serious paid time off — often 16 weeks or more — and they aren’t stopping there. From fertility treatments to adoption fees, a lot of employers are offering financial assistance to help their workers become parents.

In one example, an Agenda reader reported that Bank of America/Merrill Lynch covered about 60% of her IVF treatments for her two sons.

The list below is not exhaustive, but the following companies stood out. We’ve listed them by number of weeks of paid leave, combined between primary and secondary caregiver.

Think we left a company off? Let us know at hi@charlotteagenda.com.

#1 American Express

  • Employees: 62,000 (global). It’s unclear how many are in Charlotte, but the company has a robust “virtual career” program.
  • Parental benefits policy: 20 weeks paid parental leave; up to $35,000 reimbursement for adoption or surrogacy costs.
  • Other benefits: Assistance with fertility treatment costs; free lactation consultants; free breast milk shipping while on company travel, ‘Healthy Babies’ program for expectant mothers. Full benefits breakdown.

#2 Deloitte

  • Employees: 260,000 (global). The company has an office in Charlotte.
  • Parental benefits policy: 16 weeks paid parental leave; up to $25,000 reimbursement for adoption/surrogacy costs per child.
  • Other benefits: Up to 16 weeks paid time off to care for a non-child family member; emergency back-up dependent care. Full benefit breakdown.

#3 Bank of America

  • Employees: 15,000 (Charlotte).
  • Parental benefits policy: 16 weeks paid parental leave (includes adoption).
  • Other benefits: Flexibility in use of leave — it can be taken any time within 12 months of arrival of the new child. Full benefit breakdown.

#4 Ernst and Young

  • Employees: 231,000 (global). The company has an office Uptown.
  • Parental benefits policy: 16 weeks paid parental leave for primary caregivers, 2 weeks paid leave for secondary caregivers, including adoption and foster care children.
  • Other benefits: Lactation supplies free of cost; coverage of up to $25,000 in fees associated with fertility, adoption or surrogacy; reimbursement accounts for eligible dependent day care and health care. Full breakdown of benefits.

#5 Accenture

  • Employees: 425,000 (global). The company has an office in Charlotte.
  • Parental benefits policy: 16 weeks paid leave for mothers (including adoptive), 6 weeks paid leave for fathers; 18 weeks paid leave for fathers if primary caregiver
  • Other benefits: Financial assistance with adoption and surrogacy costs; backup dependent care program; breast pump provision; breast milk shipping options for work travel. Full breakdown of benefits.

#6 Wells Fargo

  • Employees: More than 20,000 (Charlotte).
  • Parental benefits policy: 16 weeks paid parental leave for primary caregiver, 4 weeks paid parental leave for non-primary caregiver; adoption reimbursement program (up to $5,000 reimbursed for related expenses).
  • Other benefits: Paid critical caregiving leave, paid leave allowances for adult care (yourself, your parents, etc.). Full benefit breakdown.

#7 McGuireWoods

  • Employees: 1,000+ (regional).
  • Parental benefits policy: 16 weeks paid time off for birth mothers; 8 weeks paid time off for primary caregivers if not the birth mother; 2 weeks paid time off for secondary caregivers.
  • Other benefits: Flexible options for structuring leave. Full benefit breakdown.

#8 Ally Financial

#9 Microsoft

  • Employees: 124,000 (global).
  • Parental benefits policy: 8 weeks paid maternity disability leave; 12 weeks paid family leave (maternity, paternity and adoption). Full benefit breakdown.

#10 Duke Energy

  • Employees: 14,000 (North Carolina).
  • Parental benefits policy: 12 weeks paid time off (minimum) for birth mothers; 6 weeks paid time off to either parent. Full benefit breakdown.

#11 American Airlines

  • Employees: 11,000 (Charlotte).
  • Parental benefits policy: Up to 10 weeks paid maternity leave; $4,000 in expense reimbursements relating to each adoption case ($8,000 max). Full benefit breakdown.

What are companies required to offer?

Some states’ laws specifically require that time off be offered to employees who have just had or adopted a child — but North Carolina isn’t one of them. That gives businesses great latitude to decide what to offer.

People who work for small organizations — less than 50 employees — might be the most exposed to financial loss during parental leave. These small business employers get to decide for themselves whether to offer any paid or unpaid leave. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects mothers from being fired, but small organizations often don’t have the financial ability to offer much beyond that.

If you work for a medium or large employer — typically 50 or more employees — your maternal leave is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This allows you to take 12 weeks off work, unpaid.

In addition, in North Carolina, companies with short-term disability policies must also cover pregnancy. After 60 days, this often covers 50 percent of an employee’s salary.

In the private sector as a whole, only 12% of companies offer fully paid parental leave, according to the United States Department of Labor. 

In Charlotte, small and midsize companies run the gamut in what they offer. But some of them are choosing pretty generous packages despite their size.

Passport, a parking and transit tech company with 92 employees, has recently committed to offering employees with one year of service 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave (including for adoption) for primary caregivers. Secondary caregivers can take advantage of the “take as you need” vacation policy as well as flexible work-from-home options to spend time with their new child. Primary caregivers can also utilize the flexibility of “take as you need” PTO and work-from-home to supplement their parental leave as needed.

“As a company, it is important to show we value every employee. We want to provide a supportive environment for both women and men who need time for their growing families. Our #1 principle is to place people first,” said Passport CEO Bob Youakim.

“We designed this benefit to not be about checking off boxes but rather about building and maintaining an environment which shows we care about our employees. As a father of four, I understand the need for flexibility in the workplace.”

passport-parking-office

Passport office via Passport

Passport director of product management, Erika Carney, is currently expecting a child. “Before I began here, I was thinking about my next career move. As a woman in tech, I was afraid I might have to compromise on work/life balance,” Carney shared. “The perception I had was that I could either go into a large company, be a cog in the wheel and do boring work, but have that balance, or work in a smaller environment solving interesting problems but have to sacrifice family time. Passport has offered both.”

Passport has also worked with its female employees to design features in its new office’s “wellness room,” which ultimately included a private area where new mothers can nurse. “I appreciate the company asking, because it says a lot about how they value women,” said Carney.

Even without being able to offer a fully paid 12 weeks, some small companies utilize creativity and flexibility to demonstrate that supporting new parents is still a company priority.

Skookum, a digital strategy, design and development firm, offers 6 weeks paid maternity, followed by 6 more weeks maternity leave as covered by FMLA benefits. The company also offers  2 weeks paid paternity leave.

Much like Passport, they draw upon their company’s unlimited paid time off benefit and flexible options for working from home to cushion the leave offered to new parents. With just 51 employees, it’s a model they’re able to support through a company culture of shared responsibility.

“Our people are our most valuable asset and we want to be sure they’re fulfilled not only at work, but also personally,” said Skookum CEO James Hartsell. “We believe happy employees do better work and make for a more fulfilling, collaborative environment.”

“It’s a part of our culture in general that responsibilities are shared…We’re all going to pitch in and help. We’re a family driven company,” adds Skookum People Operations Manager Becca Newton, discussing how the team will work together to cover the leave needed by fellow employees.

Photo by Meghan Cavin.

Movement Mortgage offers its 750 employees six weeks of paid maternity leave, and one week of paid paternity leave.

AvidXChange offers four weeks of paid maternity leave and two weeks of paid paternity leave.

Charlotte employees without paid maternity leave have to get creative.

For people trying to pool their resources and ease the financial burden of unpaid disability leave, the going can be tough.

One Agenda reader, who works as a school counselor, said she would have to work for three years straight without taking a sick day in order to accrue enough time for six weeks of paid leave (the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system follows FMLA guidelines). “Then you would have no sick days available if the baby got sick or anything,” the counselor said. “It’s one of the many reasons people leave public education.”

Other Agenda readers in public education, small companies, startups and nonprofits share the burden.

One nonprofit employee told us, “I had to exhaust all vacation/sick time, and then received 6 weeks unpaid. I came back to work when my son was 10 weeks old.”

Figuring out what’s available to you during the job hunt can be difficult.

One potential benefit of being employed by a large organization? There’s significantly more clarity about what you’re offered. Often a simple visit to the corporate website spells out exactly what parental benefits you’ll receive.

There are countless other Charlotte employers with parental leave policies quite similar to those listed above — but their omission of those policies from their websites can make their benefits tough to pinpoint.

Hundreds of Agenda readers we surveyed said they don’t know their parental benefits at work. Sure, this is frequently because starting a family isn’t on their radar. But oftentimes they were simply never told, couldn’t find it in their employment handbook or website, or are part of a workplace small enough that no policy is in place.

When the Agenda reached out to employers to inquire about parental leave policies, obtaining information proved just as difficult. From the perspective of a potential employee trying to seek out this information, this was discouraging.

Sometimes, this is simply because there isn’t much to say on the topic — like at Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Associates and Pulcra Chemicals, both of which follow only FMLA.

But when we put ourselves in the shoes of a prospective employee, we found that the difficulty of obtaining that information may stem from deeper causes. For example, one employer shared with us that as a small company, it is their “understood” policy not to participate in surveys of this nature.

That goes for both journalists and prospective job seekers.

Sometimes this yields good news:

  • A Meltwater Group employee shared with us that employees are offered 12 weeks paid maternity and four weeks paid paternity leave.
  • Ingersoll Rand employees reported 12 weeks paid maternity and 2 weeks paid paternity
  • DHG employees are receiving 10 weeks paid maternity.

However, for every positive response, there was a negative one. Some people said they were planning to leave companies due to insufficient benefits.

Bottom line: a lot of Charlotte companies are stepping up their game in the support that they offer new parents, but there’s still a lot more work to be done.

Many of these improved benefit policies are only a year or two old. Each company that unveils a stronger benefits package pressures competitors to do the same. These progressive policies can transform work-family balance for Charlotte parents in a big way.

Does your employer offer stellar maternity or paternity leave benefits? Tell us about it! hi@charlotteagenda.com

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