Paid parental leave benefits are becoming more generous among large Tri-State companies

Months off, adoption help, maternity concierges

CINCINNATI -- Nikki Boehmker, a senior audit manager in the Cincinnati office of the New York-based accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, is expecting her second child, a daughter, on June 30.

She's looking forward to using some generous parental leave benefits. At PwC, regardless of gender, new parents get six weeks paid leave after birth or adoption of a child. Using the company's short-term disability benefit, birth mothers can extend that to a total of four months, depending on how many babies they had and whether they had a vaginal delivery or a caesarean section, said Sue McPartlin, the company's Midwest managing partner.

The company also gives expectant moms paid leave for the two weeks before their due date.

Boehmker used the same benefits after her first daughter, Leah, was born in 2015, and they were wonderful.

"It was hard enough to envision, much less think about, returning to work quickly," she said. "It allowed me to get some sleep, to adjust to being a new mom." Also, by the time she returned to work, her daughter was old enough so that Boehmker felt better about leaving her with another caregiver.

PwC and the other large accounting firms with offices in Cincinnati appear to offer some of the best parental leave benefits in the Tri-State region. Most businesses don't offer them at all. Federal law requires a business to hold a job open for a new parent to take up to 12 weeks of leave, but doesn't require paid time off.

Nationally, only 6 percent of all employers with 50 or more employees offered full pay during maternity leave, according to a Families and Work Institute study released in March 2017. However, the number of employers that allow at least some employees to return to work gradually after childbirth or adoption rose from 73 percent in 2012 to 81 percent in 2016.

PwC put its current paternal leave policy in place in 2015. It has helped boost the retention rate for employees, McPartlin said, and that's important for a professional services company that doesn't manufacture anything except audit reports and tax returns.

"Our product is our people," she said.

In January 2017, Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank implemented a unique benefit for new parents: A maternity concierge program run by Cincinnati-based Best Upon Request. It's available to female employees who are pregnant or have an infant up to a year old.

Fifth Third Bank employee Delisha Murray, at right, is shown talking with maternity concierges Michelle Long, left, and Jessica Hanson, middle.

The two maternity concierges do things like run errands for new moms, research childcare options for them, plan a child's first birthday party and advise expectant moms about packing for their hospital stay, said Best Upon Request Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jessi Lima Bollin.

Over the past year, the maternity concierges have served more than 300 Fifth Third employees, about half of them in Ohio. The bank has about 7,000 employees in the Cincinnati/Dayton area. Bollin didn't know of any other local banks that offer this benefit.

Fifth Third created the benefit because women who took maternity leave were quitting their jobs at twice the rate of the bank's other female employees, said Laura Trujillo, senior manager for public relations for Fifth Third Bancorp, the bank's parent company. 

She declined to say how much the maternity concierge benefit costs, except to say that the amount is in six figures.

Fifth Third also offers six to eight weeks of fully paid leave for birth mothers, plus an additional four weeks paid leave for birth mothers or fathers, foster parents and adoptive parents. 

Here are some other local businesses that offer generous parental leave benefits.

Ernst & Young LLP 

348 employees in Cincinnati office. After one year of service, paid parental leave of 16 weeks if the employee is the primary caregiver. Applies to both birth or adoption of a child, or commencement of foster care or guardianship. Breastfeeding rooms are available in all U.S. offices. New mothers traveling for work are provided with breast-milk shipping kits.

Source: Lainey L. Johnson Garcia, associate director for brand marketing and communications.

General Electric

Employs about 14,000 in Ohio. New parents may take up to 10 weeks of paid leave following birth or adoption of a child. New mothers can generally extend by six more weeks by taking short-term disability time. Provides working parents/mothers rooms in most GE locations. Recently launched "Moms on the Move," a program that enables moms nursing and traveling for business within the United Stats to ship milk back to their babies for free.

Source: Arti Johri, spokesperson for GE in Cincinnati.

Procter & Gamble 

About 10,000 employees in the Cincinnati area. Offers 16 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers and for adoptive parents; four weeks paid leave for all other new parents, such as new fathers or life partners. By combining paid and unpaid leave, employees may take up to a full year off work during their child's first year of life. Work locations include mother's rooms, where mothers can pump breast milk for their babies. P&G also offers work-from-home option and flexible scheduling.

Source: Katie Stahlheber, P&G communications.

Duke Energy 

Employs about 29,000 workers nationwide, about 2,300 in Tri-State region. Offers six weeks paid leave to either parent. Birth mothers may take an additional six weeks paid leave through the company's short-term disability program. Benefit began a year ago, and since then, 35 employees have used it. Thirty of them were men, mainly because the company's workforce is 77 percent male. Offers a $5,000 reimbursement for costs associated with adopting a child. Also offers paid time off to care for a sick child, parent or other family member.

Source: Dave Scanzoni, Duke spokesperson. 

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