Yes, I Can Walk in These

Caring for the Caregiver



Who do you care for? Most of us can answer that in a myriad of ways: a child, spouse, significant other, parent, sibling and, occasionally, ourselves.

The intersection of just how to do that while juggling work and career is one of the areas Edelman’s Global Women’s Executive Network’s (GWEN) explores through its’ policy working group, ensuring Edelman’s policies align with GWEN’s objectives, positively impacting the culture at Edelman and ensuring women are not having to make difficult choices between personal and professional lives. Toward that end, we first tackled our U.S. Leave of Absence policy, which extended benefits for those who need to take medical leave and made significant improvements for those who take maternity leave.

That was an outstanding start, but left a few outstanding questions: What about dads? Or those who opt to adopt a child? Or those who need to care for an ailing parent or family member? Our new U.S. Caregiver Policy provides additional time in those cases so employees can tackle those important moments and responsibilities in life.

I have been at this point before in my own life and am facing it again now. Many years ago, when my mother was dying from cancer, I was able to be at her side, working while she was sleeping. Being able to spend that time with her was a gift and one I knew I was most fortunate to have. Today, I am struggling with the decisions involving my father who, after fighting off pneumonia, discovered his stair-filled home is no longer a friend to him. Together, we made the difficult decision to live in an assisted living facility and despite a road filled with great indecision, I am proud and relieved to say Wednesday is moving day.

In the words of Laura Smith, managing director of U.S. Human Resources, “At some point in virtually everyone’s life, it becomes our turn to care for another. Caregiver Leave is meant to help support you through those times. It offers significant enhancements to our current paternity leave program and offers a brand new paid time off (PTO) option for emergency eldercare.”

Why Edelman and Why now?

  • It’s becoming an industry standard—offering three or more weeks of maternity/paternity leave is the “new normal” for employers of choice.
  • Our employees asked for it—via focus groups, surveys (GWEN) and direct feedback to HR we’ve heard the request for more PTO for adoptive and biological parents who are not covered by our disability benefits.
  • It’s cost-effective—considering the small number of non-disability related maternity/paternity leaves per year, these improvements will make a significant impact to our benefits appeal and to individuals these improvements affect, while not breaking the bank.
  • We want to be ahead of the curve—providing paid emergency eldercare leave is a new and still relatively uncommon benefit, but one we’re confident will become more standard as time goes on. We’re paving the way for eldercare!
  • It will make us more competitive—from a recruitment and retention standpoint, these improvements make our benefits package more inclusive and attractive. Caregiver Leave will also make us more competitive when it comes to industry awards we will apply for in the future.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s changed from our former policies:

Parental Leave (OLD)

Caregiver Leave (NEW)

2 weeks of PTO for birth of a child

3 weeks of PTO for birth of a child

2 weeks of PTO for adoption of a child

3 weeks of PTO for adoption of a child

Leave must be used within one month of the birth or adoption

Caregiver Leave can be used anytime within 6 months of the birth or adoption

No eldercare leave

Introducing Eldercare Emergency Leave: provides 5 days of PTO to care for an eligible elderly relative

These options help us all lead more fulfilling and giving lives, reminding me of the GWEN blog written by Alex Eeles, a new dad in our London office who took his paternity leave when his wife returned to work at the end of her maternity leave. It gave them a chance to extend the time they had at home with the baby before bringing in a nanny or starting day care and gave him a really unique opportunity to bond with the baby. This also helped ease his wife’s return to work, because she knew her baby was being cared for by his father.

That is what I call caring for the caregiver… a notion that, like the welcoming of a newborn, is always something to celebrate.

Gail Becker is chair of Canada, Latin America and U.S. Western Region

Mother Child” image by Michael Kordahi

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