IBM Is Giving Its New Moms and Dads Even More Perks
IBM on Wednesday is increasing its existing parental leave and introducing a policy that reimburses employees for surrogacy expenses for the first time.
The paid maternity leave available to new birth mothers employed at the tech giant will increase from a maximum of 14 weeks to 20 weeks. Fathers, partners, and adoptive parents, meanwhile, will receive 12 paid weeks off—double the previous benefit of six.
The Armonk, N.Y.-based company is also offering employees a reimbursement of up to $20,000 for expenses related to adoption or surrogacy; it previously offered $5,000 for adoptions only. The new reimbursement will be available to employees even if their adoption or surrogacy efforts are unsuccessful, allowing workers to pursue parenthood “without devastating their bank accounts,” Barbara Brickmeier, IBM’s vice president of benefits, told Fortune.
She said the new benefits reflect the company’s realization that “no one size fits all.”
“We have a general approach of wanting to meet employees where they are,” she said. “People are forming families in various ways.” She pointed to the new surrogacy reimbursement in particular as benefiting both straight and same-sex parents. She said employees had asked for the perk.
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This marks the second time in as many years that IBM has sweetened its parental benefits. In 2015, it increased its maternity leave from a maximum of eight weeks to 14 and bumped its paternity leave from five days to six weeks. At the time, IBM (IBM) introduced a policy that allowed new parents to take their allotted time off intermittently in the year after their child’s arrival. Employees can use the additional leave introduced on Wednesday in the same way.
Since IBM last boosted its parental perks, other progressively-minded firms battling over the same highly-skilled talent have amped up the parental benefits arms race, prompting Big Blue to re-examine its policy once again.
In March 2016, online marketplace Etsy introduced a gender-neutral parental leave policy that gives all new parents 26 weeks of paid leave that they can use within two years of welcoming a child.
EY debuted a new parental leave policy in April 2016 that gives new moms and dads up to 16 weeks of fully-paid leave and provides employees with $25,000 for fertility, surrogacy, adoption, and egg freezing services.
In December 2016, American Express introduced a new policy that gives men and women 20 weeks of fully-paid leave upon the arrival of a new child and offers them benefits worth as much as $35,000 for adoption and surrogacy events.
“Our market scans were showing us, ‘Hey, something’s happening,'” Brickmeier says. “We really want to be in the top percentile.”
Wednesday’s news comes a week after IBM reported its 22nd consecutive quarter of falling revenue and months after it recalled some of its remote workers to physical office locations, a move aimed at fostering better in-person collaboration that affected roughly 2% of IBM’s global 380,000-person workforce. Brickmeier said the firm’s expanded parental benefits are unrelated to that decision.
In a blog post announcing the new perks, Brickmeier harped on IBM’s work flexibility, which she called a “hallmark of IBM’s culture.”
“Flex-time is available to IBM parents who need to pick up a child from school, go to a doctor’s appointment, or attend a special event,” she said in the post. The company also offers milk delivery for nursing moms who travel on business, childcare discounts, designated parking for expectant mothers, and a $50,000-per-child reimbursement for services related to mental, physical, or developmental disabilities.
IBM’s new parental benefits are—notably—available to all of its U.S. employees—full-time and part-time workers alike. Since the U.S. is the only developed country in the world without any guaranteed paid leave for new parents, only 13% of workers have the benefit, according to 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and access differs starkly based on employee status. Fifteen percent of full-timers receive the perk, versus 5% of part-timers.