Apple announces policy to ease transition back to work for new parents

By Pavithra Mohan

Apple announced a new benefit today intended to help smooth the transition back to work for new parents. The company already provides at least 16 weeks of paid leave to birth parents, which is comparable to leave policies adopted by other tech companies. But after talking with new parents—particularly women—about the challenges they faced, Apple executive Deirdre O’Brien says she felt there was more the company could do to help ease their transition.

“What we find a lot of times is people are really excited to get back to work,” says O’Brien, Apple’s head of retail and human resources. “At the same time, [they] feel like they need to make sure things are really stable and successful at home. And that weighs heavy on people’s minds, I think.”

That’s why Apple is introducing a policy that will give new parents a four-week grace period after returning from leave. During that time, they will continue to be paid like full-time employees but will have the flexibility to work part-time and set their own hours with their manager’s oversight. This applies to all new parents, including those who adopt or take in foster children (though for non-birth parents, paid leave is capped at six weeks). These benefits extend to Apple’s retail workers, as well, who account for nearly half of the company’s employees.

Apple has also expanded leave for adoptive parents by four weeks, along with almost tripling its financial assistance for families that choose to adopt. (The adoption process costs some families hundreds of thousands of dollars. Apple now offsets those costs by $14,000.) Adoptive parents will have access to an additional four weeks of paid time off through Paid Family Care, a benefit the company provides for family illness. “There’s more administration and complexity around adding to your family via adoption,” O’Brien says.

In addition to these changes for parents, Apple announced that it’s building on its mental wellness benefits as well, doubling the number of free counseling sessions available to employees per year and providing telemedicine options to employees seeking more flexibility.

Apple isn’t the first company to roll out a gradual return-to-work program. Pinterest and Salesforce, for example, both have similar policies (though the latter only grants four-day workweeks). Still, despite the fact that many women report finding it difficult to return to work—or face discrimination due to pregnancy or their new role as a parent—it’s certainly not a widespread benefit. “I think many times working parents feel like they need to deal with that quietly and make it seem perfectly seamless,” O’Brien says. “We all know life is complicated. So [we’re] making it really clear that we’re supporting them in that journey.”

 

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