Companies Provide Supportive Environments

Posted September 4, 2007 12:06 p.m. EDT

Of the Family-Friendly 40 companies recognized this year by Carolina Parenting Inc., the overwhelming majority offer health insurance and paid absences for sickness or caring (97.5 percent). The next most common benefit is dental insurance (95 percent).

Opportunities to work at home and short-term disability after childbirth are next in line (92.5 percent). In terms of other workplace options, a noticeable 90 percent offered flex time, 85 percent offer part-time employment, 72.5 percent offer a compressed work week and 57.5 percent offer job sharing. Compared to some national studies, those percentages are slightly above the national norm – a sign that these North Carolina companies are making smart choices on behalf of employees.

As far as family leave policies go, the U.S. isn’t exactly a world leader. Compared to other nations, we have some of the stingiest leave policies across the globe, but a number of our Family-Friendly 40 Companies step up with paid maternity leave (60 percent) and paid paternity leave (45 percent). And extended leave for adoption was offered only slightly less often (82.5 percent) than extended leave for childbirth (87.5 percent).

When it comes to taking care of the kids, 52.5 percent offer on-site or near-site child care, and 62.5 percent offer a child-care resource and referral service. Subsidies for child care are often appreciated, but hard to find, and are available at only 30 percent of the Family-Friendly 40.

One of the most interesting strengths among our Family-Friendly 40 was a noticeable dedication to community service. Many companies offer employees paid time off to volunteer in the community – in some cases up to 40 hours a year. Some also offer volunteer donation matching programs, in addition to generous company donations to community organizations.

Many companies work hard to be creative, whether it’s letting employees take every other Friday off with pay or giving cash bonuses for vacation spending money (Senn Dunn Insurance), pre-paid legal services (Hummingbird Creative Group), will preparation (UNC HealthCare), a parent list-serv, on-site hair salon, recreation facility and massage therapy (SAS Institute) or compensation to help cover infertility and developmental delay services (Wachovia). In some cases, even pets are included in family-friendly policies, with special privileges to come to work (Replacements).

When companies offer excellent health-care benefits – zero co-pays, zero deductibles and coverage for domestic partners, for example – they go above and beyond the workplace norm. And offering adoption benefits, college savings plans, tuition reimbursements, generous leave policies and on-site health services send the message that families matter.

Visits from the ice-cream truck, catered birthday parties for employees, periodic massage therapy services, trips to Carowinds and Durham Bulls games – gauging from the comments on Family-Friendly 40 nomination forms, employees appreciate gestures both big and small. Combine those benefits with a supportive culture, and companies offer families a winning formula.