General Mills makes a case for giving parents a break

General Mills has always made lists of best places to work in these parts and in unveiling expanded parental leave and caregiving policies today, the company has demonstrated anew why.

It’s good business; the company has to compete with other family-friendly employers for people who value that sort of thing and it’s encouraging to the working world that benefits are increasingly being seen, not as a mere favor for employees, but a business arrangement beneficial to both sides.

According to the Star Tribune, new parents will get 12 weeks paid time off, new birth moms get an additional six to eight weeks for their physical recovery, caregivers will get two weeks paid time off every year to deal with immediate family members struggling with serious health conditions.

The benefits also provide the rare common ground on a the new reality of life in 2018: we can’t balance the needs of our families with the needs of our employers. We’ve reached a breaking point.

Millennials, like most young parents, are trying to figure out what to do with little humans. Gen X’ers are starting to take care of their Baby Boomer parents, and Baby Boomers have exchanged raising little things that can’t take care of themselves to comforting 90-year-olds who can’t take care of themselves.

Across the generations, too, it usually falls on women, although fathers are getting a better deal with 12-weeks paid time off too. It’s all too much.

The new policy doesn’t start until January; that’s not good news for employees whose babies are due soon, but the company had to start somewhere.

And it’s only for salaried, non-union workers, although there’s an argument to be made that the others are humans, too.

“Those who can least afford to be able to take unpaid time are also the least likely to have paid time off,” Debra Fitzpatrick, co-director of the Center on Women, Gender and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, tells the Strib. “We look to these companies as models, but it’s really important that we recognize low-income babies need care just as much as high-income babies need care.”

A point that’s reinforced with yesterday’s post about time spent with children being the one thing that guarantees educational success.

That recognition of the need to recognize that all babies need care, not just the ones of employees that needed to be enticed to work for some companies, is glacially slow in coming, though.

A commenter in the Strib probably spoke for the what-about-me caucus when he lamented the impact on the price of cereal.

  • Guest

    “Those who can least afford to be able to take unpaid time are also the least likely to have paid time off,” = = = Name one element of pay (cash, healthcare, fringes, vacation) where this would not be true.

    It is not a surprise better jobs = better off. Heck, the parent who works 1/2 time most likely needs it the most.

    • One of the areas where this is tough is part-time employees. If you only work 30 hours a week, and you have just pushed a kid out of your insides, is the need for physical recovery any different?

      • Guest

        Nope, human bodies come in just two models.

  • I wonder if this will only apply to salaried employees at HQ, or will the average hourly employee in a production environment will also get 18-20 weeks after having a child?

    • Sybil Twilight

      Nope, only the desk jockeys get the benefit. Hourly, union workers don’t get it. Though they deserve paid time off after childbirth too. And, I’d argue a woman doing the production work needs the recovery time much more than someone who spends the day sitting at a desk answering emails.

      Pretty strong message about class being sent.

      • Kassie

        I’m glad when we got paid parental leave it applied to all job classes. So janitors and security guards as well as IT folks and upper management. And it wasn’t because the woman who does production work needs more time than the woman sitting at her desk, but because all children are equal and need parents home. It is nearly impossible to get day care until the kid is at least six weeks old.

        • Sybil Twilight

          Exactly. That child whose mother is doing the less skilled work deserves having her mom at home for the same length of time as the one whose mom is in the management level position.

      • TBH

        Do you think part of that exclusion for union workers is due to contract negotiation? I could see them say “hey – we’ll offer this benefit to you in the next contract to get everyone on the same page, but you need to back off on X and Y demands?”

        I’m not familiar enough with the process to know the answer, but it is the only reasonable hypothesis I can imagine.

        • Jack Ungerleider

          My thought exactly. I’ve always been under the impression can’t just add a benefit to a collectively bargained contract. It requires reopening the contract and one or both sides may not want to do that for a variety of reasons.

  • Guest

    Devil’s Advocate here: Consider two jobs: a 30 hour a week job with either all cash OR less cash and rich fringe benefits so the cost to the employer is the same.

    Which one do you bet will get more applicants?

    WOULD the ideal be a cafeteria style job where a person can select just which fringes to trade for cash, or mandated by the city?

    • Kassie

      Me and most of my co-workers are underpaid. Some of us are way underpaid. But we have really good benefits. Good health insurance, a pension, lots of time off, 11 paid holidays, that sort of thing. We also have a mission people can get behind. And due to that, we get lots of good candidates for most of our jobs.

      • Guest

        THAT is the key.

        IF you have plenty of applicants, no need to up the cash or fringes.

        IF you want to attract more good applicants, gonna have to up the cash or fringes.

  • As a society we need to decide that we work to live, not live to work. There is a cost to this of course, but the benefit would be that everyone would be healthier and happier.

    • Kassie

      Also, workers need to realize that the owners of business need us, we don’t need them. We can find other jobs, but if no one will work for them, they are screwed. We need to start demanding time off and fair wages.

      • theoacme

        And we the people need to demand that the establishment political party that pretends to care about workers (when they truly only care about the plutocracy, as opposed to the other establishment political party who only cares about male Caucasian false-Christian plutocratic misogynist racists) either stops acting like Republicans, or be prepared to protest against everyone in the implacably evil treasonous corporate bourgeoisie of both the Republican and Democratic Parties.