The U.S. still lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to paid maternity leave, but several companies are starting to step it up. This includes IKEA, the Swedish brand which, up until now, followed the sort of bare-minimum family leave policy you’d expect from a big-box retailer with a 29 percent turnover rate. But as The Washington Post reports, the business recently announced a major change that affects their U.S. employees: Starting this January, workers in IKEA’s U.S. corporate office and stores will be offered up to four months paid or partially paid family leave whether they're a new mom, dad, or non-birth parent of any gender.
A handful of tech companies have made headlines in recent years for their generous policies that extend paid leave benefits to all parents. But in the retail sector, where employees are often viewed as replaceable, progressive benefits like these are rare. IKEA U.S.’s human resources manager Nabeela Ixtabalan told The Washington Post that the move is being made to retain more workers and eventually lead to less spending on recruiting and training efforts. Even more importantly, she says, the company hopes the change will bring them closer to their goal of fostering a “healthy and safe workforce.”
IKEA’s previous family leave policy didn’t offer much to new parents: short-term disability leave for mothers who had recently given birth and five days of paid leave for all other parents. Under their new rules, biological parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents who’ve worked with the company for at least a year will be eligible to receive six weeks of fully-paid time off followed by six more weeks with 50 percent pay. New parents who’ve been with IKEA for three years will have access to those same benefits for eight weeks at a time.
Up to 16 weeks of time off sounds like a good deal for an hourly worker, but the policy could have unintended consequences. Half of their regular pay isn’t enough for many workers to survive on—especially with a new addition to the family—and employees with the lowest wages may be most likely to skip out on the full benefits. But IKEA says this is something they’ve already considered, and they plan to allow workers to supplement the partial pay window with unused vacation and sick days. If more retailers follow IKEA’s lead, the positive impact could be felt beyond each company’s individual workforce—more comprehensive paid leave policies throughout the U.S. could save America billions each year.
[h/t The Washington Post]