Innovation doesn’t end on the product line

Nestlé’s paid family leave policy shows how modern companies adapt for their workforce

It isn’t exactly TED Talk material to note that the world’s best companies must innovate. At Nestlé USA, innovation is our lifeblood. But it’s more than keeping up with the times or even with competitors. A company must keep up with its workforce, too.

This is particularly true as it relates to the evolution of family leave policies, which have captivated the attention of policymakers and business leaders alike this past year. As the policy debate continues to percolate, Nestlé is already seeing the results of our progressive Parent Support Policy (PSP) that we launched in the U.S. in January 2016. In fact, we have the policy’s first-year of data, and we like what we’re seeing.

The Nestlé Parent Support Policy offers primary caregivers up to 14 weeks of paid leave and an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a newborn child. All of our 51,000 US Nestlé employees are eligible for this gender-neutral benefit when they have been with the company for six months and average at least 30 hours/week. The policy is open to biological parents, adoptive parents or any primary caregiver of a newborn child.

When we announced the policy nearly two years ago, we vowed transparency and said we’d share our data to better inform our own employees and those outside of Nestlé who are interested in this issue. Although it’s early stage results, the positive reception to this policy and the real benefits it’s offering are encouraging:

• 585 Nestlé employees took advantage of the program in 2016.

• 30 percent of those who participated in the PSP were hourly and commissioned workers.

• 97.6 percent of Nestlé’s U.S. employees who used any form of parental leave were still active with Nestlé six months after their return in 2016.

Providing this type of investment in employees is a way of investing in their families, too. Our policy reflects the knowledge that the first 1,000 days — the start of a mother’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday — are key to establishing a healthy foundation for the child. Our first-year learnings provide some hopeful signs. Every infant benefiting from the PSP received at least one immunization, and mothers who used the Nestlé Parent Support policy reported lower rates of anxiety and filed fewer mental health claims. Healthcare costs for infants whose parents took paid leave under the policy were also 12 percent lower, excluding high-cost claimants.

Nestlé support for families goes beyond paid leave, though, and includes a full menu of parenthood support, including medical and prescription benefits for infertility treatments as well as financial assistance for adoptions. Free breast pumps, 24/7 lactation consultants and even a “baby bundle” of gifts for the new child (from a stuffed animal to reading materials for baby and parent) are intended to ease the transition for this exciting, yet challenging, time. With our first-year data in hand, we’ll continue to evaluate the policy to ensure that it’s serving our workforce and their families in the best possible way.

Our Parent Support Policy feels right at home for Nestlé, as it’s an extension of the mission that drove our founder, Henri Nestlé, to develop an infant cereal to save the lives of malnourished children. More than 150 years ago, he set out to support families and contribute to a healthier future. That mission — the essence of the PSP — is driving Nestlé USA forward today.