Employment

The Beauty of Coca-Cola's New Parental Leave Policy

"Paid parental leave isn't just a nice thing to do, it's the smart thing to do for our business."

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MjZ Photography/Flickr

Coca-Cola this week announced a massive expansion of its parental-leave policy for non-union U.S. employees. The new policy covers not just female employees who give birth but dads, adoptive parents, and foster parents, all of whom will be entitled to six weeks paid leave. Biological mothers will be entitled to the six weeks parental leave plus six to eight weeks of short-term disability leave following the birth of a child. The new policy goes into effect January 1, 2017.

"Fostering an inclusive workplace means valuing all parents—no matter their gender or sexual orientation," said Ceree Eberly, Coke's "chief people officer," in a statement. "We think the most successful way to structure benefits to help working families is to make them gender-neutral and encourage both moms and dads to play an active role in their family lives."

Opening parental leave to all genders and sexual orientations will hopefully help combat the penalty new moms can face for taking maternity leave, the company says. "While lengthy maternity leave policies have helped some companies retain female talent, the lack of female senior executives has remained," it notes. "By removing gender from the equation and offering all new parents the same amount of paid leave, Coca-Cola hopes to combat bias and help pave the way for more women in leadership positions."

@CocaColaCo/Twitter

So why should anyone outside Coca-Cola care about this change? Because the move comes at a time of increased pressure for cities, states, and the federal government to impose mandatory paid family leave requirements on private businesses. And this idea is predicated on the view that businesses won't adapt on their own accord. But Coca-Cola's new policy comes not from top-down regulations but movement within the organization, driven by millennial employees.

"Internal surveys and external research highlighted the value [millennials] place on parental leave and revealed that the average age of first-time, college-educated parents is 30—also the median age of Coke's current and prospective Millennial employees," the company reports. "Millennials will account for more than half of the global Coca-Cola system workforce by 2020. "Paid parental leave isn't just a nice thing to do, it's the smart thing to do for our business," said 27-year-old Katherine Cherry, one of five millennial employees who worked with Coke's HR team on the new parental leave policy.

Just like employers began offering health insurance last century in order to attract top talent, big companies these days are increasingly realizing the value from a business perspective of offering flexible work arrangements and parental leave benefits. Major employers to recently expand their parental leave policies include Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Etsy, Netflix, and J.P. Morgan and, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, the number of large U.S. corporations that at least offer paid maternity leave jumped from 12 percent in 2014 to 21 percent in 2015.

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75 responses to “The Beauty of Coca-Cola's New Parental Leave Policy

  1. The record of ‘parental leave for all’ from scandanavia shows that despite efforts to redistribute traditional roles, Mothers generally take the maximum, while fathers still take very little, being more driven to get back to work to provide for their family instead of sitting at home with the kid.

    I predict there will be a lot of unused leave from this policy.

    1. This, of course, is why we just need a new common sense rule that mandates the leave.

      1. Which Sweden is heading towards.

    2. The presumption seems to be vaguely Orwellian that if we just change what we call it and applying it to everyone will change why and how people use it. Regardless of the practical considerations.

    3. The use of parental leave is certainly correlated with seriousness about one’s career. I’m sure that millennials of all genders will avail themselves with this opportunity.

      1. And that senior management will use this information accordingly.

        1. Nope. Because in short order senior management will *be* millennials. And there are far more of the ‘I drank the Koolaid’ ones than useful ones.

    4. Yup.

      This is why “Opening parental leave to all genders and sexual orientations will hopefully help combat the penalty new moms can face for taking maternity leave, the company says” doesn’t hold up.

      Driven women won’t have kids and take a month and a half off, any more than they did before.

      Driven men won’t take a month and a half off when their SO has a child.

      Non-driven men and women will, and they’ll face the same “penalty” for the same reasons – they revealed not being driven and taking work as their first priority at all times.

      Nothing can be done about that one, realistically.

    5. The insanity and inequity of this program is that it rewards people who decide to have kids – and punishes those who do not. Why not a policy that simply gives EVERYONE a pay raise equal to the amount of family leave, and allows all to take 6 to 8 weeks of UNPAID leave if they so choose? That way, everyone is treated fairly (they all get the same cash) and people who want to spend it taking care of a kid can do it, while those who’d rather bank the bonus, or go golfing, can do so.

      Isn’t it enough that people without kids get soaked by the government in the form of taxes for schools? Do we now have to have private businesses giving parents paid vacations – and dumping their workload on co-workers who decide NOT to have kids?

  2. “By removing gender from the equation and offering all new parents the same amount of paid leave, Coca-Cola hopes to combat bias and help pave the way for more women in leadership positions.”

    By encouraging our male employees to increase their costs to the company and decrease their contributions, we’re hoping to decrease their overall value to the company to where it matches that of their female counterparts.

    1. Yup. This is step one on the way to dialling down men’s earnings to “match” that of women.

      1. How else do we reach EQUALITY?? We must lower expectations because it promotes greed! And greed is the problem with capitalism. Capitalism causes inequality and is therefore bad. So it’s best that we all become low-paid automatons.

  3. Millennials will account for more than half of the global Coca-Cola system workforce by 2020.

    Because Coca-Cola will have no choice with the retiring/dying previous generations being unavailable.

    Internal surveys and external research highlighted the value [millennials] place on parental leave and revealed that the average age of first-time, college-educated parents is 30

    Would you mind pointing us to those studies so we can judge them for ourselves? At the very least the external research.

  4. “Fostering an inclusive workplace means valuing all parents?no matter their gender or sexual orientation,” said Ceree Eberly, Coke’s “chief people officer”

    Serious question: In these days of modern time, why aren’t gender and sexual orientation combined into *one* official “people category”?

    Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to identify as, say, “Type 253” as opposed to “queer bi-curious cis-genderfluid trans-female with masochistic tendencies”?

    Hmm. Come to think of it, “bi-curious” is awfully judgmental. I propose “pan-curious” instead.

    1. Because the people who spout such things are trying to cram as many bamboozling terms into their drivel as possible to prevent people from getting that they have no substance to their arguments. It also hides exactly how tiny a minority they’re talking about when they’re talking about a real population at all.

      1. OK, then let’s go the other way try a different approach: demand the inclusion of any, um, domain-related categorization you can think of into diversity and discrimination kerfuffles.

        “No matter their gender, sexual orientation, preferred method of accessing pornography, frequency of non-penetrating masturbation, ?.”

  5. That’s so sweet of them.

  6. The leave thing is fine, but I hope they’re also going to recognize in some tangible way–e.g. bonuses–the contributions of those who have to stay behind and pick up the slack.

    1. I would hope that those people are able to cash in all that unused leave time.

    2. Nope – they’ll handle it the same way the military handles the disparity in treatment and benefits between married and single service members. They’ll say that that stuff is there for you two when you need it. Now all you married guys go home, its been a long deployment and you want to go see your families. The rest of you get to work wrapping-and-frapping and holding sweepers for the thirteenth time today.

    3. Wouldn’t this be a signal to the stock-holders that there is inefficiency during normal operations, at times when there aren’t any employees taking advantage of this leave?
      If all that would be needed would be to have some employees “pick up some slack”, then there already seems to be too many employed, with some “slacking off” going on.
      A smart Pepsi advertising campaign would highlight that their product will be that much less expensive because they don’t have this parental, paid vacation policy and that stock-holders’ dividends will be higher.

  7. Wait, so now my compensation as someone who’s not going to have a kid is less than that of someone who has a kid? Even though I’m not missing six weeks of work?

    1. Good point. A better solution would be to increase every employee’s PTO to six weeks or more and let the employee decide how they will use it.

      1. Though it just occurred to me that maternity/paternity leave will only be used 1.5 times by the typical young employee of childbearing age, while increasing PTO is much more expensive. So, nevermind.

        Nonetheless, this is a good way for large organizations to develop loyalty and permanence by encouraging families rather than discouraging them. Small organizations just can’t afford it–neither the cost in money nor in time off.

        1. So add nine or 12 weeks once.

          Or allow me to self-identify as the father of someone’s child or something.

          1. Or allow me to self-identify as the father of someone’s child or something.

            LOL.

            Or maybe when you get a new car, or gaming machine, or other toy. It’s all about the transition time–is it not?

            Personally, I see no reason to change the status quo. When we adopted our children (twenty-years ago) my wife took PTO and unpaid leave for as long as two months. It was our choice, afterall. And we didn’t both need to take time off.

        2. Thus, large businesses have yet another advantage over smaller ones and, when these leaves become legislated as mandatory, government will be siding with big business, yet again.
          And people wonder why big business donates so much to the politicians who love to impose mandates on businesses.
          Big Business and the Chamber of Commerce do not support conservative lawmakers.

    2. Well…sorry that you’ve chosen not to participate in one of the bigger aspects of human existence. I guess it’s only fair that private companies do nothing to accommodate their employees who do want to participate?

        1. Have you considered that maybe the Coca Cola company wants the type of people who want to raise children to be their employees?

          1. You mean they prefer expensive employees?

            1. And ones that will need more time off, for the next 18, or so, years, for unexpected child care responsibilities?

          2. Funny how they never came up with this program until it recently became a plank in progs’ social platform. They’ve only been in business, what, 100 years or so?

      1. Another good point. Someone must raise the next generation. Why punish those who take on that burden. Either way, it’s not fair to someone.

        1. Why punish those who take on that burden.

          Your inability to budget properly is not a punishment someone imposed on you.

          1. I’m merely stating that I can see both sides of the argument. Am I a bad person because I don’t dogmatically agree with your perspective?

            Perhaps you already know–the cost in time and money to raise a child is considerable. Someone has to take on that role or there will be nobody to take care of you when you’re too old to be a selfish asshole.

            1. It has nothing to do with dogma.

              Companies aren’t magnanimous enterprises. Paid leave is just deferred compensation. If your pay was increased by a factor of 6/52 but you wouldn’t get 6 weeks paid leave then you would have the exact same amount of money in your pocket over the year.

              And get off the fucking cross.

              1. See my comment above.

                I agree that taking PTO and unpaid leave is good enough. It worked for my family. Nevertheless, I find this animosity toward families among the commentariat here disheartening. It’s as if libertarians hate people who care about others. I realize that it’s often just a snarky meme. But other time it’s real. Libertarianism will not get many followers with this kind of attitude.

                1. It’s the GIFT. I don’t hate people who decide to raise children and I’m not particularly bothered by any subsidy of it I might make through reduced compensation or increased taxes provided that the children end up being net taxpayers themselves.

                  Honestly, the dynamic of this forum is either that we largely agree with each other, or else half of us end up whining and the other half end up insulting. Like I said, we have the GIFT.

              2. My company offers a free health club membership. Totally unfair to the fat lazy dipshits, right?

                1. My company offers a free health club membership. Totally unfair to the fat lazy dipshits, right?

                  WTF are you even responding to?

            2. Someone has to take on that role or there will be nobody to take care of you when you’re too old to be a selfish asshole.

              That’s up to the individual someones. If companies think that they should be subsidizing parenting, that’s their business. But I don’t think anyone has any obligation to encourage people to breed. If people stop having enough kids, then that’s what happens and people will deal with it.

        2. No, I think it’s pretty fair that new parents can use whatever PTO they have accrued, or take unpaid leave, if they choose to have a kid.

          Not giving you additional compensation to make your choice easier on you isn’t punishment.

          1. If you’re doing the whole ‘family’ thing *right* then the kid won’t be a surprise. They can do a little planning.

      2. The accommodation comes from not getting fired for taking extended leave.

        That you can get paid during that time simply means that your compensation at other times was reduced accordingly. It’s not accommodation, it’s accounting.

      3. A. I don’t really work for Coke.
        B. I have two kids.
        C. Coke should be able to compensate employees however the hell they want.
        D. That doesn’t change the fact that giving my co-worker six weeks off with pay, during which I get to pick up the slack, would be something I’d mention at my next compensation meeting.

        1. Hah – my boss just took 4 weeks off for a kid. I think I’ll keep my mouth shut about it now that review time is here.

        2. If it makes you feel better, women who have kids experience a big hit to their earning power. Just like anyone who takes lots of time off from working. They get paid in the short term but it’s a trade off long term, no matter what BS the coca cola 27 year old hr lady spouts to the contrary.

      4. If companies decide it is the right thing to do, they can do that. But as it is now, they are often forced to do so.

        1. “Oh, but you could have taken that leave too. By the way, we’re offering free Sushi, every day. No we dn’t offer steaks. Why, but you could eat the Sushi, too?”

    3. If Coke wants to do that, it’s their business. But that is a real problem with mandates for this sort of thing. It is just saying that people who make certain life choices get more benefits.

      The same thing already happens with health insurance. Married people often get subsidized health insurance for their spouse, but unmarried people with no kids don’t get any extra. If it weren’t for the long standing tax rules and newer Obamacare rules, more companies could just offer employees all either extra cash, or insurance for an extra person or whatever works. As it stands now, people with the good sense not to have kids or get married (semi-joking there), get a raw deal.

  8. how is this any better than any other redistribution? I know from personal experience how voluntary having kids is (having sex, I mean), but you may as well if you’re paying for parents’ time off. Gonna have to try harder than this to make criminalizing consensual behavior sound good.

    1. how is this any better than any other redistribution?

      In this case, so far, it’s voluntary.

  9. “Paid parental leave isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for our business,” said 27-year-old Katherine Cherry, one of five millennial employees who worked with Coke’s HR team on the new parental leave policy.

    And after the Planning department get the numbers done, the smart thing to do will be to only hire the younger candidates rather than the older candidates who are more likely to be married and having kids. See? Millenials are altruistic!

    1. Or people who are in their 40s+ and have already had kids or never will.

      1. You risk having to pay those 40+ guys too much, though.

      2. So now I have a reason to put vasectomy on my CV!

  10. So why should anyone outside Coca-Cola care about this change?

    They shouldn’t – except insofar as they might be interested in working (or not) for Coca-Cola. But telling a pack of wild dogs they have no right to attack you ain’t gonna stop the beasts from attacking you. Coca-Cola’s press release can be boiled down to “Nice doggie!” as they back slowly away, hoping Pepsi doesn’t notice Coke’s getting behind them. That bit about this being “good for business” is horse-shit or they would have done it long ago, it’s only “good for business” in the sense that not being attacked by a pack of wild dogs is a good thing.

    1. I think it can be good for business in certain cases. But it’s not obvious that it should always be so. Some employees are difficult and expensive enough to replace that it is better to have them out for 6 weeks than to have to replace them.

  11. Coke can certainly do as they please.

    But are they doing it for what’s best for them, or just to be ahead of the curve and what’s going to get shoved down their throat anyway?

    And we’ve all seen the “nudging” articles here, almost on board that it’s “libertarian” in some aspects, to have your property taken from you to fund the cultural conditioning memes about these things such as leave. Having a culture that takes billions of dollars to condition millennials that they’re entitled to the moon, the sun, and the stars, and then – surprisingly – surveys reveal they want more free shit isn’t exactly a “free market”. If left to a perfectly free market, I doubt Coke would find a way to increase its costs unless its in an attempt to invest in better than average people.

    In the end, Coke can do as it pleases but I have to wonder how much of it is chosen and how much of it is “nudgingly” imposed. It’s the constricting of the corpora-fascistic structure around the neck of productivity.

    Of course, it’s not ALL done with stolen money handed out to “think tanks”, people should be aware that probably 20%-40% of the money you give to United Way (or some such) ends up in the “gray market” of lobbying for more stolen dollars.

  12. It’s sex discrimination. With a massive disparate impact. Simple thing, it’s “the good kind”. So, screw legal doctrine, go ahead!

  13. Coke’s “chief people officer,”

    So no more Coke for me. Not because of this maternity policy but because I just fond out they have a C-suite position labelled ‘Chief People Officer’.

    1. Isn’t that just a fancy name for “head of HR”?

  14. If left to a perfectly free market, I doubt Coke would find a way to increase its costs unless its in an attempt to invest in better than average people.

    Just a thought here. I’ve observed over the past 40 years that employees with children, on balance, tend to be more “compliant” than their childless co-workers. This is not to say the childless are a bunch of layabouts. Hardly! they are often more available after hours and such.

    At the same time, they are much more mobile in the job market. Their ability to jump to a competitor imposes a cost on us in terms of their compensation and advancement. (I’m not complaining, that’s free market at work).

    Parents DO seem to get comfortable with a home, a neighborhood and a school system. As such, IME, they have been less demanding. Four weeks paid leave (our benefit offer) is actually quite a small line item as compared to recruitment and training cost. Perhaps Coke and others are trying to incentivize the sort of employee that will “stick around”.

    Full Disclosure:
    I am childless and work for a Fortune 500 that can afford this sh*t.
    Government mandates bad, m’kay?

    1. There was a time when being married and having children was a requirement for promotions. It was taken as a sign of character, loyalty, stability, and “skin in the game”. Much like what you’ve outlined, this kind of stuff can be very reasonable.

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  16. Hats off to the Baby Daddy that keeps all his women pregnant and qualifies for year-round paid leave!

  17. “Just like employers began offering health insurance last century in order to attract top talent,…”

    Sorry ENB, but I have to give you 3 Pinocchio’s on this one. Employers began offering health insurance last century because Roosevelt instituted a pay freeze, so to attract top talent, employers had to find some other “benefit”. They decided primarily on health insurance. And not all employers offered insurance. Kaiser Steel opened their own medical facility for their employees. That facility has now grown to be Kaiser-Permanente, the leading HMO in the country. Also, you make that statement like it is a good thing. I contend that my employer should have no say in who I choose as my insurance carrier. They do not provide my car and home insurance; I sure as hell do not want them in control of my health insurance.

  18. “The rest of you employees with no children can all go fuck yourselves! Now get back to work!” – Coca-Cola HR Mgr.

  19. Of course this wouldn’t even be an issue if we had retained the evolved male/female roles and had an economy, whereby the husband earned enough to support a family and the wife stayed home to have and raise the children.
    I put a lot of this on a nation whose understanding of the role of government has expanded to the level that taxation – the one expense that has no market equalizer built in – has made it such that two paychecks are needed to keep up.
    Advocating for “women in the workplace” was less about “equality” and more about stuffing the government coffers.

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