General Mills boosts paid leave benefits to keep up with changing workforce

General Mills, the maker of Cheerios cereal and Betty Crocker cake mixes, is more than tripling the length of its paid maternity and parental leave policies, introducing paid caregiver leave and boosting its bereavement and disability benefits.

The packaged food company announced the changes Wednesday as part of an overall U.S. employee benefits upgrade that goes into effect Jan. 1.

“General Mills has been making food people love for over 150 years and our employees have always been our secret ingredient,” says Jacqueline Williams-Roll, the retailer’s chief human resources officer, of the company’s decision to boost employee benefits and align them with the needs of its evolving workforce.

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As part of the benefit expansion, General Mills will hike paid leave for birth mothers from six weeks to 18 to 20 weeks and increase paid parental leave for fathers, partners and adoptive parents to 12 weeks from just two.

The company, which employs 15,000 workers in the U.S., will also introduce a caregiver leave benefit, offering employees caring for immediate family members with a serious health condition a two-week paid leave.

“Family values are at the core of everything we do, and we needed to shift and modernize along with them,” says Williams-Roll.

General Mills joins a slew of companies that have either added or enhanced paid parental leave programs in an effort to attract and retain employees in a competitive labor market. Financial services firm TIAA earlier this year, for example, expanded its paid parental leave to 16 weeks, up from 12 weeks of partial paid leave. Walmart also ramped up its U.S. leave policy to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave, up from eight weeks and two weeks, respectively. Other employers that have turned their attention to paid leave to get a leg up in the battle for talent include Dollar General, TD Bank and IBM.

Paid leave benefits have been trending up over the past five years, according to the latest data from the Society for Human Resource Management. In 2018, 35% of employers offered paid maternity leave, up from just 12% in 2014. Paid paternity leave has also climbed, with 29% of employers now giving new dads paid time off.

See also: Employers zero in on paid parental leave

General Mills also joins a small but growing cadre of companies offering caregiving benefits. About one in 10 employers offer such benefits, up slightly from 8% in 2014, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

“General Mills’ focus is to help meet the needs of employees at all life stages, and these updates are a way to fulfill that commitment,” Williams-Roll says of the new caregiver time-off perk.

The company will also expand its bereavement leave benefit, giving employees the opportunity to take up to four weeks off following the death of an immediate family member. The company currently offers three to five days of paid time off.

In addition, it will improve its short-term disability benefit, which is now based on location and years of service. In 2019, employees will be eligible for 100% paid time for up to eight weeks and 65% of pay for up to 26 weeks.

The new benefits apply to both salaried and non-union production workers in the U.S. and are intended to help employees “live happier, healthier lives both at home and at work,” says Williams-Roll.

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