Putting People First: Paid Parental Leave Helps Families Thrive

September 25, 2017
President of Corporate Affairs, Nestlé

Nestlé is committed to enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future. As the world’s largest nutrition, health, and wellness company, and one of the leading providers of infant nutrition, we know the first 1,000 days—from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday—offer a unique window of opportunity to shape healthier and more prosperous futures.

Parental leave practices in the U.S. are still well below global standards. Conditions around parental leave, ranging from back-to-work strategies to leadership culture to length of the paid parental leave, may have a negative impact on health, the economy, and women’s advancement in the workplace.  

Supporting New Nestlé Parents

In January 2016, Nestlé launched the Parent Support Policy (PSP). 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. Parents also can return to work on a part-time basis during the 26-week leave window.

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. 

Building a Strong Business Case

When we announced the new policy, we committed to collecting internal analysis with the aim of understanding the policy’s impact on female employee retention. We’ve since expanded the scope of our analysis to understand the impact on wellness, health behaviors, and health costs. We anticipate that the data will support a strong business case for paid parental leave and will serve as an effective advocacy tool to encourage other companies to adopt similar policies.

The policy took effect 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 hint at the importance of offering paid family leave to all employees—not just salaried or senior staff. A full 30% of PSP participants were hourly and commissioned workers. Hourly male employees were 40% more likely to take advantage of the PSP than men working in salaried positions. Nestlé is continuously working to make sure all employees understand and can take advantage of the policy.

Finally, the first year of data provided encouraging evidence that a flexible workplace fosters a committed workforce. In 2016, 97.6% of Nestlé’s U.S. employees who used any form of parental leave were still active within Nestlé six months after their return. We are optimistic about retention impact and will continue to track retention levels.

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. The PSP will help us recruit and retain a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. While the data gathered so far offer encouraging evidence, the most convincing argument may come from employees

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

Kelly, Nestle Purina
(daughter Kayla born in August of 2016)

Join the Movement

Although quite a few companies have expanded their paid parental leave policies in recent years, parental leave practices in the U.S. are still well below global standards. Only 13% of workers have access to paid parental leave, and only 58% have access to unpaid leave. We encourage companies to provide paid parental leave. We are willing to provide counsel and lessons learned from our own experience. See nestleusa.com/parents for more information and how to contact us.