Work From Home

Bank of America expands paid leave for parents

Bank of America expands paid leave for parents

Bank of America announced a four-week expansion to its paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave time Wednesday, a move that comes as some other large U.S. employers are sweetening their policies.

The new 16-week policy will take effect Monday for full- and part-time employees who have been with the bank at least a year. It marks the first time Bank of America has increased paid family leave since 2009, when it raised the amount of leave from eight weeks to 12.

In explaining the move, Jim Huffman, U.S. health and wellness benefits executive for Bank of America, noted some other large companies, such as Facebook and Netflix, have recently enhanced their parental leave offerings. Last year, Facebook announced an expansion of its leave policy to four months of paid time off for all employees, while NetFlix unveiled a eye-popping full year of paid leave for new parents.

Bank of America regularly reviews its leave policies, taking into consideration what other companies do as well as its own employee feedback, Huffman told the Observer.

“We’re always looking at our benefits program,” said Huffman, who sits in Charlotte.

The announcement comes after rival JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest U.S. bank by assets, in January announced a similar increase in parental paid leave to 16 weeks, from 12. That amount is available to “primary caregivers” only, defined by JPMorgan as the parent who has primary responsibility for a child after birth or adoption. The bank also increased paid leave for non-primary caregivers from one week to two.

There is no differentiation between primary and nonprimary caregivers in Bank of America’s policy, which allows mothers and fathers to both take 16 weeks. The second-largest bank by assets employs roughly 15,000 in its headquarters city.

Huffman said Bank of America’s move was not in reaction to JPMorgan.

Wells Fargo said it does not specifically provide paid family leave but offers options parents can use to take time off from work and still receive 100 percent of their pay.

Wells noted that new fathers can use the regular paid time off the company awards each year, a figure that ranges from 18 days to 33 based on the employee’s time with the company. Generally, new mothers can use a combination of paid time off and short-term disability, said Wells Fargo, which is based in San Francisco but employs about 23,000 in Charlotte.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, which has been expanding its presence in Charlotte, said it offers two weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave.

Nationwide, paid leave remains a perk available to only a small fraction of America’s workforce. Only 12 percent of U.S. private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In recent years, Bank of America has made changes to another program that employees say provides them work-life balance. Some employees who used the bank’s popular work-from-home program have been asked to report to an office, a move that has affected some workers in Charlotte. The bank continues to offer the program to other employees in Charlotte and elsewhere.

Bank of America has also closed day care centers it subsidized around the country, including in Charlotte. But it continues to provide other forms of assistance to parents, such as a $240 monthly reimbursement per child to cover child care costs for full- and part-time employees who earn less than $100,000 a year in cash compensation.

The bank also continues to offer up to $8,000 per child to cover adoption expenses.

“It’s really about our employees,” Huffman said of the expansion to 16 weeks of paid leave. “We know that their families are critical to them, and it’s very important for us as a business to support them.”