Biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb has updated its parental leave and caregiver assistance policies in an effort to better serve new parents and the “sandwich generation” — employees who care for their children as well as their elderly parents.

The benefit, which was announced internally in October 2017 and went into effect on Jan. 1, will give 12,000 employees, regardless of gender or marriage status, eight weeks of paid parental leave and 16 weeks of unpaid leave. The leave can also be taken intermittently, the company says.

Previously, birth mothers could take six to eight weeks of short-term disability, followed by 16 weeks of unpaid leave, and fathers and adoptive parents had access to one to five weeks of leave.

“It’s inclusive of all family sizes and reflects the needs of our diverse workforce,” says Lisa Goldey, global head of total rewards and people services at Bristol-Myers Squibb. “LGBTQ, sandwich generation, millennial cohort: all of them can and will benefit.”

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Bristol-Myers Squibb’s new parental program also broadens the definition of family, which allows the time off to be applied to caring for a spouse, partner, child or parent, Goldey says.

“Having that flexibility is important,” she says. “Providing that financial security is really important.”

Bristol-Myers Squibb says it expects the benefit expansion to be a multimillion dollar investment but notes it is a “market competitive, progressive benefit.”

“We are in a very competitive marketplace, and our mission is to help our patients prevail over serious disease,” Goldey says. “We need the best talent we can attract.”

The program is open to all U.S. employees, including eligible hourly workers, according to Bristol-Myers Squibb. It joins the company’s current suite of work-life benefits, which includes back-up daycare across the country and on-site daycare at three New Jersey locations.

“One of our pillars is an energizing workplace,” Goldey says. “These enhancements that we put in at the beginning of this year are really designed to help employees bring their best energy to work.”

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