Despite the existence of a federal law that requires all businesses to offer employees with more than 50 weeks at the company up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave, any amount of paid maternity or paternity leave is still a rarity for many employees in the United States. Forget 12 weeks being offered, most are lucky if they get even a few weeks of paid time off with their newborn. Even if that time is offered, there can be instances of employees being discouraged from taking their full allotment or being marginalized at the office for taking advantage of some time off after welcoming a new child to the world.
In the service industry – whether in restaurants, hotels, or other blue collar jobs – the opportunity to take time to be committed to a newborn is even more rare. Which is why it’s so refreshing to see that Danny Meyer’s chain of restaurants, encompassed under the Union Square Hospitality Group umbrella, will start offering employees of more than a year fully paid leave for four weeks after a baby is born and 60% paid leave for another four weeks after that. It’s a groundbreaking move by the chef and entrepreneur, one that should mirrors the forward-thinking decision to ban tipping from his restaurants last year and instead incorporate the difference in revenue to menu prices.
It’s not just moms that this affects either, as this policy will apply to dads working at the company as well as committed domestic partners of either sex. Which in itself is a progressive move that is not embraced by some companies, some of which that have been offering extended paid leave for years and years. it’s a facet of the new policy which proves Meyer’s commitment to making sure all of his employees have equal opportunities to stay up all night taking care of a crying baby without have to worry about crawling into work the next day exhausted and unfocused. The rule will also encompass adopted children as well as biological offspring. Maintaining worker morale and minimizing the percentage of their salaries they have to spend on babysitters will only help each restaurant keep good employees for longer periods of time.
The policy has been tested in the corporate offices of USHG, but will roll out completely in the group’s major restaurants next year. One restaurant chain that the policy won’t touch, at least not yet, is Meyer’s crown jewel – Shake Shack. The constantly crowded burger joint was made into its own restaurant group so any Union Square policies don’t apply. If the policy goes well in the next phase of its roll out, however, hopefully the workers at Meyer’s fast casual behemoth will also get to benefit from the privilege if they decide to start a family.