Banking

Wells Fargo to provide paid parental leave for first time

Wells Fargo said this week it will begin offering paid parental leave for the first time, joining other large U.S. banks that have recently upped their benefits.
Wells Fargo said this week it will begin offering paid parental leave for the first time, joining other large U.S. banks that have recently upped their benefits. Bloomberg

Wells Fargo will begin offering paid parental leave for the first time, joining other large U.S. banks that have recently upped their benefits.

The San Francisco-based bank told employees Wednesday it will provide up to 16 weeks for a primary caregiver and up to four weeks for a nonprimary caregiver following a birth or adoption. The benefit, available to Wells Fargo’s full- and part-time employees in the U.S., takes effect June 1.

Wells Fargo’s introduction of paid parental leave follows enhancements announced earlier this year by some of its competitors. Last week, Charlotte-based Bank of America announced 16 weeks of paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave, up from 12 weeks previously. In January, New York’s JPMorgan Chase & Co. also announced a 16-week policy, up from 12.

The move also comes after the city of San Francisco on Tuesday passed a measure that requires businesses to provide six weeks of full-paid leave to new parents.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Diana Rodriguez said the bank’s changes were not in response to the recent actions taken by other lenders or by the city of San Francisco.

“We were working independent of what (other banks) were doing,” she said. Wells Fargo’s action was also “completely independent” of San Francisco’s mandate, she said.

Prior to the changes, Wells Fargo allowed new fathers to use paid time off, and new mothers to use a combination of paid time off and short-term disability.

Wells Fargo’s rollout of its new policy differs from Bank of America’s in one respect: Bank of America had its policy take effect just five days after it was announced. Wells Fargo’s takes effect June 1. That didn’t sit well with at least two Wells employees who said it’s unfair to pregnant employees who are due before then.

“There’s a fair amount of blowback internally from expecting mothers who are due between now and June 1,” said a Charlotte-based employee who asked not to be named in order to speak frankly about her employer. “I just think there needs to be some sort of compromise or solution for folks who are stuck in the middle of this window.”

Rodriguez said the bank currently has no plans to move up the June 1 rollout.

“The June 1 implementation date helps ensure that the systems and tools are ready to support a smooth experience for team members,” she said.

This week’s move comes as other large corporations, not just banks, have recently unveiled more generous paid-leave policies. Chicago-based accounting giant Grant Thornton, which employs about 300 in Charlotte, announced a new unlimited paid time off policy in September. Also last year, Netflix said new parents could take a full year of paid leave.

Across U.S. companies, paid family leave remains rare, with only 12 percent of private sector workers having access to the benefit from their employer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Some companies that offer parental paid leave face criticism for providing larger amounts of time to primary caregivers than to nonprimary caregivers. In addition to Wells Fargo, other companies have similar policies, such as JPMorgan Chase’s two weeks for nonprimary caregivers.

“It’s concerning that companies are forcing partners to make a distinction about having a single primary caregiver, because that can reinforce pay discrimination against moms,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO of MomsRising.org, an organization that advocates for better workplace policies for families.

Even if companies allow families to pick who is the primary caretaker, the role often goes to women, in particular so they can establish breastfeeding, she said.

“It’s not a good trend,” said Rowe-Finkbeiner, who is calling for the U.S. to adopt national paid leave for families.

Wells Fargo notes that it allows employees to determine which parent is the primary caregiver, regardless of whether they are the mother or father.

Also Wednesday, Wells Fargo announced two other new employee benefits that will take effect June 1.

▪ Paid critical caregiving leave, which provides up to five consecutive work days of paid leave per year for full- and part-time employees to care for a spouse, partner, parent or child with a serious health condition.

▪ Five days per year of in-home back-up care for an employee’s parent, spouse, partner or adult dependent. The benefit might be used, for example, if an employee’s typical care provider unexpectedly becomes unavailable.

The paid parental leave and paid critical caregiving leave will be available to employees who have worked for Wells Fargo for 12 consecutive months. Full- and part-time employees will be eligible for back-up adult care if they have worked for Wells Fargo at least one month.

Rodriguez said the three programs will support the well-being and financial health of Wells Fargo’s employees. The bank employs about 23,300 in the Charlotte metropolitan area, its largest employment hub.

“The availability of the new benefit programs will provide team members with additional flexibility and financial support to care for their families,” she said.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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