There's a lot to love about the Parents Perks program just unveiled by Ansira, one of the country's largest independently owned marketing agencies. The Dallas- and St. Louis, MO–based company will begin offering all new parents, regardless of gender or how their child was brought into the world, alternative work schedules for up to 16 weeks after a family expands. As a press release explains, "Schedules may include part-time work ... flex schedules, working from home and bringing the child to work when offices have a baby-friendly environment." Nice!
Should a new parent be required to go on a business trip, the company will "provide compensation for the travel and meals of a companion." That's a relief if you're nursing and want to take your baby with you but need a caregiver when it's time to meet with clients.
Then, there's a lot that's fairly standard. The company touts that they'll be granting five weeks of short-term disability pay to birth mothers at 60% of their salary, seven weeks if they deliver by C-section. After that, new birth mothers can supplement the seven or five weeks of unpaid time from FMLA with paid vacation time, even if they haven't yet accrued it. For reference, all 100 of the Working Mother Best Companies offer at least one week of fully paid maternity leave, and in 2017, employees at these companies took an average of nine weeks of fully paid maternity leave.
What followed in the press release is what sounds like a very generous offering with an insidious caveat. "A bonus of $2,500 for parents returning to work within 30-days of the birth or adoption date."
Record scratch. Does that mean that employees only get that money if they come back to the office a month after becoming parents?
For men who tend not to take much time off after becoming dads, that $2,500 seems like all gain, no pain. My own husband returned to work four weeks after our first was born, and he didn't get $2,500 for it (though his new company does offer a portion of that in straight-up baby cash, regardless of when he returns). But men who qualify for FMLA, as those at this 800-plus-employee company would, are entitled to those 12 weeks off too. And dads who take a full paternity leave devote 23 percent more of their time to household chores—even three years later, according to a Canadian study. It's hard to put a price tag on a father who pulls his weight. What's more, dads who take longer paternity leaves and spend more time caring for young children wind up having kids with higher cognitive test scores.
But in 2017, when only 13 percent of men get a paycheck during time off for a new child, I get it. You want that money. But what about dangling that $2,500 carrot in front of new moms? A 2014 paper published in the Journal of Health, Politics, Policy and Law found that the more time a new mom takes off from work (up to six months), the less likely she is to suffer from postpartum depression. And they were less likely to be depressed decades later, according to a 2015 study.
Confused about why the $2,500 bonus was contingent upon cutting leave short, I reached out to an Ansira rep. She clarified, "Everyone who returns to work after giving birth/adoption will receive the bonus of $2,500 within the first 30-days of returning to work ... A bonus of $2,500 is paid 30 days after the parents returns [sic] to work, regardless of the duration of the leave." She added, "The press release was confusing. The below has been offered to employees since the program launch," referring to giving the money to parents who return after 30 days.
Phew. I was concerned that the hot new trend for 2018 would be companies throwing dough at "good" employees who didn't take as much time as possible to be home with their new additions. But as you can see above, that would be a terrible, terrible idea. But $2,500 for returning to work at all and a temporarily flexible work arrangement? Working Mother is very much behind that.