Danone expands non-gender specific parental leave

By Sandy Rose Schwieterman - For the Sidney Daily News

MINSTER – The 330 hourly employees and 100 salaried staff members of Minster’s Danone Plant will benefit by the Danone North America expansion of its gender-neutral Parental Bonding Leave policy.

The new policy provides 18 weeks of leave for a new parent, whether they be male or female.

“Not only is it the right thing to do to provide all parents the time they need to care for and bond with a new child, but ultimately we believe this policy will lead to stronger, more engaged teams,” said David Merritt, Danone’s senior plant director in Minster.

With the expansion, which came into effect Dec. 1, this benefit now is available to all the company’s 5,700 U.S. employees, whether they work in an office or in one of Danone’s 14 manufacturing facilities across the country. Originally, the leave policy was just available to corporate employees.

“Not only are we are proud to support all our Danone parents,” said Shane Grant, CEO at Danone North America, “it is also our hope is that we will inspire others and help advance parental leave equity outside our walls, as well.

“Our new policy is in line with the commitment Danone made globally in 2017, as part of the UN Women’s HeForShe initiative, to become one of the leading parent-friendly companies in the world through the implementation of a global gender-neutral paid parental leave policy.

Grant added that, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, only 9 percent of U.S. companies offer paid paternity leave to male employees.

“And, while many manufacturing companies have begun to expand their paid parental leave in recent years, policies continue to differentiate between primary and secondary caregivers – further reinforcing traditional family roles even while American family dynamics and needs evolve,” he said.

Grant said involving the fathers in the raising of a child also benefits the family economically.

“Encouraging gender-neutral policy helps dads engage more and earlier in their children’s lives has broader and longer-term benefits, too” he said. “Just one benefit is that it impacts women’s income and, consequently, their families’ financial security.”

He added research from Sweden showed each additional month of parental leave taken by a father increases the mother’s wages by nearly 7 percent.

Across the United States, Danone North America partners with the International Union of Food (IUF), the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM) and the Teamsters.

Mark Lauritsen, International Vice President at UFCW, praised the new leave policy.

“Danone’s family-first approach to supporting its teams sets it apart from so many of its peers in the industry,” he said. “We believe an offering like this provides a huge value not only to its employees but has equally significant impacts for families and the communities where Danone operates.”

Within communities where Danone plants are located, Danone said it has been involved with other philanthropic programs, such the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, through product donations and policy improvements to allow for more families to access the program. Recently, the company also signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, to provide accommodations for pregnant women to minimize risk to their pregnancies at work.

For more information, visit www.danonenorthamerica.com.

By Sandy Rose Schwieterman

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.