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Employee Benefits

Employers Expand Paid Family Leave

It's not just for new moms and dads anymore.

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Every year, millions of American workers take time off to care for aging parents, and they must use unpaid leave to do it. But that's changing. Last September, Deloitte LLP, a professional-services firm with more than 70,000 employees, announced that workers may take up to 16 weeks of paid time off to care for children, elderly parents, or a sick spouse or partner. Earlier, Nike announced that its employees may take up to eight weeks of paid leave to care for ill family members.

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The change came at an ideal time for Kim Rowan, a senior manager for Deloitte in San Francisco. She had her second child in April and was able to use the new program to extend her maternity leave. Rowan says the policy will also allow her to spend more time with her father, who has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.

In addition to expanding the purposes of family leave, the Deloitte program gives employees more flex­ibility in how they use it. Employees can spread their weeks throughout the year, or schedule caretaking around three- or four-day workweeks.

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As elder-care demands continue to affect employee productivity, more companies will likely follow Nike and Deloitte's example, says Jody Gastfriend, vice president of senior care at Care.com, an online marketplace for family-care services. Although the ben­efit is attractive to older workers, it's also valued by younger employees, she says. About 25% of millen­nials are caregivers, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.

And expanding paid leave beyond time off for new parents creates a more equitable workplace, Gastfriend says. “Not all em­ployees have children, or their kids have grown up.”

See Also: How to Manage Your Parents' Care From Afar