Some very good news coming to us from Bloomberg about recent changes at American Express.  In response to a tightening labor market, and, in recognition of the changing ways in which Americans are creating and composing families, the financial services giant now offers 20 weeks of paid time off to their employees.  Even more encouraging is that this benefit is granted no matter whether the new family member arrives by “stork”, or adoption or surrogacy.

Amex is making this move in response to a labor market that is perceived as “tightening”  especially at the higher skilled and professional levels.  They are by no means the only company undertaking such an effort – the article points out that companies in the tech sector have been offering generous family leave as a tool to retain highly skilled workers and to address the issue of under-representation of women in that sector.  Etsy is pointed out as a company offering approximately six months (26 weeks to be precise) of paid time off, while Netfllix offers an even more generous benefit of one entire year of parental leave.  The article also notes that this escalation of benefits is not limited to the tech sector, with financial giants like Bank of America and Fidelity having made moves in the Spring of 2016 to expand the benefit which they offer to their employees who are starting or adding to their families.

I applaud any actions which support people in their quest to create or expand their families.   As noted earlier, the recent wave of enhancements are applicable to any situation where a family welcomes a new member.  They are also available to either the primary or secondary caregiver.  In the “old days’ there were differing levels of benefits for “maternity” and “pateritnity” with paternal benefits being of much shorter duration (and typically non-existent).  The new family benefits are increasingly neutral and applicable to either of the parents, whatever their gender or role in the home.

A brief aside.  As mentioned earlier, I am a strong advocate for adoption.  Right now there are thousands of children who are in foster care in every state in this country whose number 1 Christmas/Holiday wish is to have a “forever family”.   You may even have heard commercials from the US Dept of Human Services and their ADOPT US KIDS campaign telling that you don’t need to be perfect to be a perfect parent.  I can assure you that this is an absolute truth, as thousands of adoptive parents live it out each and every day. I am including a link to Adopt US kids and encourage everyone that is thinking of expanding their family to give serious consideration to adopting a child from foster care.

The Bloomberg piece closes by recognizing that these type of generous parental leave benefits are typically limited to larger, more “white collar” organizations and are often more likely to be in the larger cities. (it cites NYC and San Francisco as two examples). Noting that manufacturing companies tend to be smaller and located in more rural areas, the article notes a spokesperson from the Society for Human Resource Management who admits that there is still “work to be done” in that sector.  Still, an encouraging message about a change in workplace environments which helps people form and expand families – what better message for this time of year and what better than to close with the heartfelt toast of Dicken’s lovable Tiny Tim, which I send out to all families – “God Bless Us All….Everyone”