Carlie and her husband, Brandon, were experiencing a mix of emotions as they prepared to welcome their first child, a baby girl, into the world. Carlie, a human resources manager at Nestlé’s Solon, Ohio, campus, had discovered she was pregnant just weeks after accepting a transfer to the company’s California office. To her and her husband’s dismay, they were unsure how to balance the move and the new role with a potential maternity leave.
“Family is very important to us,” Carlie says. “I couldn’t believe it when a few days before we moved, my supervisor called me and helped adapt my role to work for my family.”
Today, Carlie, Brandon and 1 year-old daughter, Addison, are thriving. And while Carlie’s story may have had a uniquely happy ending, the desire to balance the demands of work and family is increasingly commonplace. Driven in part by the rise of dual-career households, flexibility has never been more important. A 2015 survey conducted by Ernst & Young’s Global Generation Research found that 74 percent of respondents prioritize flexible work arrangements, including paid family leave. Employees are looking for, and even demanding, that work fits into daily life wherever possible and not the other way around.
Supporting New Nestlé Parents
Speak to many managers and executives about this new world and you may hear a bewildered plea: “Can we really be expected to meet these new, and ambitious, demands for workplace flexibility?” they ask.
At Nestlé, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
In recent years, the company has increasingly offered flex-time schedules to accommodate long commutes and family schedules, the ability to regularly work from home, and even sabbaticals for long-term employees. And, in January 2016, Nestlé launched the Nestlé Parent Support Policy, the company’s most ambitious flexible work initiative yet.
Available to all Nestlé employees who have been with the company for six months and work at least 30 hours per week, the PSP is gender-neutral and open to biological parents, adoptive parents or any primary caregiver of a newborn child. Under the policy, primary caregivers are offered up to 14 weeks of paid leave and an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a newborn child.
Nestlé also offers employees a broad network of parenthood support, including medical benefits and prescription drug benefits for infertility treatments, a free breast pump, 24-hour-a-day consultation with lactation specialists, children’s books, full-value coupons for Gerber formula or baby food, and a credit for other new parent essentials.
Eighteen months after the PSP launched, employees have embraced the benefits offered. As data rolls in, Nestlé is seeing some encouraging signs that the PSP is helping to build a flexible and modern workplace.
Committed and Cared-For Employees
Implementation of the PSP couldn’t have come soon enough: The policy took effect on January 1, 2016 and the first employee began maternity leave under the PSP just six days later. One year after the policy’s launch, a total of 585 Nestlé employees had taken advantage of the program.
Over the first year of the policy, the average participant took 13 weeks of leave, slightly less than the 14 weeks of paid leave offered through the PSP. These numbers support what American workers have long reported — that the inability to afford unpaid leave is the most common reason for foregoing needed time off.
First-year data also hints at the importance of offering paid family leave to all employees — not just salaried or senior staff. A full 30 percent of those who participated in the PSP were hourly and commissioned workers. In fact, hourly male employees were 40 percent more likely to take advantage of the PSP than men working salaried positions. To that point, Judy Cascapera, Chief People Office at Nestlé USA, highlighted that “Nestlé is continuously working on improving education and understanding of the policy for all our employees to take advantage of. By reviewing and sharing our first year of data, we’re learning more about how to do that effectively.”
Finally, the first year of data provided encouraging evidence that a flexible workplace fosters a committed workforce. In 2016, 97.6 percent of Nestlé’s U.S. employees who used any form of parental leave were still active within Nestlé six months after their return. Nestlé knows that it’s early, but they’re optimistic about retention impact and will continue to track retention levels at 6, 12, and 18 months after employees return from leave.
Creating Shared Value
“The health of our business is intrinsically linked to the health and resilience of the society in which we operate,” says Judy Cascapera, Chief People Office at Nestlé USA. “There is no better time to begin fostering a healthier future than in the first days of a child’s life –paid family leave is an important part of supporting new families during that time.”
Ample evidence supports Cascapera’s view. In California, which now offers partial paid family leave to state residents, the use of maternity leave has doubled, from an average of three weeks to six weeks for new mothers. Research also indicates that women who take advantage of the state’s program have higher long-term incomes following their return to work. Benefits of paid family leave extend to fathers, too. A nationwide look at paternity leave by the U.S. Department of Labor found that those who took leaves of two or more weeks were more active in their child’s care nine months after birth.
Nestlé is counting on healthier outcomes such as these to help recruit and retain a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. And while the data gathered so far offer encouraging evidence, the most convincing argument may come from employees like Kelly, team lead of HR operations at Nestlé Purina. She took advantage of the PSP when her daughter, Kayla, was born in August of last year.
“It makes you feel good to know that Nestlé is supporting you as a working parent,” Kelly says. “Whenever I tell friends about the PSP, they ask how they can get hired into Nestlé. I was already one of the I’m-never-leaving employees. I’m even more so now.”