The United States, according to research from S&P Global, is the only country among the wealthy democracies that doesn’t have a law guaranteeing maternity or parental leave income. And that’s something S&P Global aims to change—starting with itself.
S&P Global, a data and financial-intelligence giant based in New York with 23,000 employees worldwide, offers 20 weeks minimum parental leave through birth, adoption, surrogacy, or foster additions to the family, a mix of paid and unpaid time off. This is impressive, considering the national average is four weeks. “We are among only 25% of those recognized [by Working Mother Media] who offer gender-neutral paid parental leave,” says Dimitra Manis, chief people officer for S&P Global.
The company is looking to lead the way on a new approach to employee relations, especially around benefits, and especially aimed at women—and now, in 2020, with an eye towards easing its people’s stress during the pandemic.
The roots of this aspiration can be found in a 2017 S&P research report called, “Adding More Women To The U.S. Workforce Could Send Global Stock Markets Soaring.” Promoted with the hashtag #ChangePays, the research offers a comprehensive look at the state of the workplace for women, and the impact a variety of policy adjustments might have. “Strengthening the number of women in the labor force has the potential to add $5.87 trillion to global market capitalization in 10 years,” Manis notes.
The research found that full-time daycare alone takes up 41% of single mothers’ median income. “S&P Global believes that a concerted effort to increase participation and foster retention of women in the American workforce, particularly in those professions traditionally filled by men, represents a substantial opportunity for growth of the world’s principal economy,” the report states.
Flexibility as a foundation for support
S&P Global’s time-off benefits are part of an overall employee-wellness program that focuses on typical issues such as career development, life, health, family, and finances, plus supportive tools for sleep, fitness, hydration, and mindfulness.
One word often heard around the S&P Global benefits team is “flexibility.” This theme existed before 2020, but this year’s demands have expanded the concept. Employees have the option to decide when they work, how they work, and even how to use a well-being reimbursement to meet individual needs. Some of those include nutritional counseling, marathon registration fees, fitness classes, or meditation apps. “We’re encouraging our people team, managers, and all of our people to think about how wellness can factor into all aspects of their working lives,” says Manis.
Communications is a major part of the well-being effort. A three-pronged team of representatives—from the HR, corporate culture, and benefits teams oversee those efforts, which include a broad array of channels:
- The company intranet
- weekly town hall meetings
- weekly manager briefings
- wellness events
- quarterly week-long themed initiatives with internal-engagement activities
The pandemic and the work-life balance
Like companies across the country, S&P Global is shifting to support employees during the numerous events of 2020. It increased the number of backup childcare sessions available to employees, from three to ten, through the end of this year. It has a ParentsNet employee resource group that provides stories, tips, and information. Parents also have access to resources that keep their children learning during isolation. “Our people are working harder than ever, and we hope our existing leave options and our expanded solutions help to restore some balance,” says Manis.
S&P Global recently expanded its Employee Assistance Program to include mental health and even election-anxiety support. S&P established subsidies and reimbursements in crucial areas: employees get the tech and the ergonomic tools they need to work from home with wellness in mind.
It also expanded care leave to six weeks for employees caring for loved ones and committed to paying any employee who contracted COVID-19. An unlimited paid condolence leave, including a three-month’s salary, was established as well. “Ultimately, our decision to introduce these programs was driven by our role as a people-first company,” says Manis.
According to a mid-year survey in June, benefits awareness increased significantly during the height of COVID-19 self-isolation. The feedback from employees has been positive, considering responses from the annual employee engagement survey.
In the end, this organization takes the value of its people seriously. And it has the awards to prove it. Working Mother Media placed S&P Global in its 100 Best Companies list and its Best Companies for Dads list for 2020. “We know first-hand how critical health and wellness is for our people as they care for themselves and their loved ones during this challenging time and into the future,” Manis says.
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