Meeting the Needs of 21st Century Parenting

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There have been debates about paid family leave in the U.S. since the 1950s, when my company pioneered paid-time-off for IBM moms at a time when women represented only 30% of the workforce.

Fast forward to 2016, and nearly two-thirds of households in the U.S. had women as either the primary or co-breadwinner. The share of two-parent households in which both parents work has increased significantly over the past 40 years, fathers now play a greater role in child-rearing, and hundreds of thousands of same-sex couple households have children.

Just as families and the demands of parenting have changed, so have the expectations of employees. There’s no one-size-fits–all approach for parents balancing family and work every day of their lives.

That’s why our benefits have to reflect the diverse needs of IBM families. That’s why, today, we’re dramatically expanding our family support options to meet the increasingly diverse needs of 21st century parenting. In response to what we have heard from employees across our organization, we’ve made the following changes:

  • For IBM moms who have given birth since November 2016, we’ve increased paid parental leave to up to 20 weeks (up from 14 weeks);
  • We have doubled paid parental leave for IBM dads, partners and adoptive parents to 12 weeks – also applicable to babies born since November 2016;
  • To help with flexibility, IBM parents can choose to take the bonding leave any time during the first year after the birth or adoption;
  • IBM will reimburse up to $20,000 for eligible adoption or surrogacy expenses including medical costs associated with surrogate birth mothers.

As medical diagnosis has improved, our society has recognized the potential of special needs services for children. Our Special Care for Children Assistance Plan reimburses employees $50,000 towards applicable services for each child with mental, physical or developmental disabilities.

In addition, we continue to adapt our popular family-friendly programs, which include:

  • Our 2015 milk delivery program for nursing moms who travel on business has been expanded to international travel;
  • Childcare center and after-school center discounts across the U.S.;
  • Expanding expectant mother parking to IBM locations across 50 states;
  • Investing in child care centers with guaranteed priority status for IBM families through our Global Work/Life Fund;
  • A range of maternity and mindfulness services;
  • And even with these offerings, there is work flexibility – a hallmark of IBM’s culture. Flex-time is available to IBM parents who need to pick up a child from school, go to a doctor’s appointment, or attend a special event.

It’s important for IBM to reinvent family-friendly programs to address the needs of today’s parents. It’s among the many reasons IBM attracts and retains top talent. We’ve been at this a very long time – we just made Working Mother magazine’s Best Companies list for the 32nd consecutive year — and we will continue to adapt programs for employees that are in step with the way families and work evolve.

Vice President, Employee Benefits, IBM

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