Danone expands parental leave in US

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

The benefit is now available to all the company’s 5,700 US employees.  Pic: Danone North America
The benefit is now available to all the company’s 5,700 US employees. Pic: Danone North America

Related tags Danone Danone North America

Danone North America, the world’s largest Certified B Corp, has announced it is expanding its gender-neutral Parental Bonding Leave policy to its manufacturing employees, enabling them to take up to 18 weeks’ paid time off after the birth or adoption of their child.

The benefit is now available to all the company’s 5,700 US employees, whether they work in an office or in one of Danone’s 14 manufacturing facilities across the country.

The policy – effective company-wide immediately – is an evolution of the company’s previous practice of providing its frontline manufacturing employees up to two weeks of paid leave in addition to allowing the use of paid time off or vacation for such absences. The policy, which can be taken anytime within the first year of a child’s birth or adoption date, is applicable to either parent, which the company said recognizes parenting can be a shared responsibility between caregivers.

“At Danone, family is important to us. We understand how special – and also how challenging – welcoming a new child into the world can be. That’s why we are proud to support all our Danone parents, of all genders, in our factories and our offices, as they bond with their newest family member,”​ said Shane Grant, CEO at Danone North America.

“Our hope is that we will inspire others and help advance parental leave equity outside our walls, as well.”

Across the US, Danone North America partners with the International Union of Food (IUF), the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers' International Union (BCTGM) and the Teamsters.

“Danone’s family-first approach to supporting its teams sets it apart from so many of its peers in the industry. We believe an offering like this provides a huge value not only to its employees but has equally significant impacts for families and the communities where Danone operates,” ​said Mark Lauritsen, international vice president at UFCW.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, only 9% of US companies offer paid paternity leave to male employees. And, while many manufacturing companies have begun to expand their paid parental leave in recent years, policies continue to differentiate between primary and secondary caregivers, which Danone said reinforces traditional family roles even while American family dynamics and needs evolve.

Recent research from the Council on Contemporary Families also shows an 11% rise in equal responsibilities shared between mothers and fathers since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, indicating a larger social change that Danone intends to support. In fact, encouraging gender-neutral policy that helps dads engage more and earlier in their children’s lives has broader and longer-term benefits, too; just one of which is that it impacts women’s income and consequently, their families’ financial security. Research from Sweden shows each additional month of parental leave taken by a father increases the mother’s wages by nearly 7%.

Danone’s new policy is in line with the global commitment the company made in 2017 as part of the UN Women’s HeForShe initiative to become one of the leading parent-friendly companies in the world, through the implementation of a global gender-neutral paid parental leave policy.

In addition, the company said its commitment to inclusive diversity includes creating an environment in which all employees feel a sense of belonging and support. Ensuring its manufacturing teams can care for their families while also maintaining employment security is a critical part of this commitment. For employees expanding their families through adoption, the company provides adoption assistance up to $6,000 and it further supports a more inclusive economy by providing a living wage to all its colleagues.

Within its communities, Danone has long partnered with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program through product donations and policy improvements to allow for more families to access the program.

Recently, the company also signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, to provide accommodations for pregnant women to minimize risk to their pregnancies at work.

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