Change happens slowly in federal government but the high-tech industry is all about change happening in the blink of an eye. One area of swift-moving high-tech change that is leaving the feds in the dust is how female employees are treated when they have babies.
Although relatively young in the business arena, the high-tech industry has quickly caught on to the fact that women are more likely to return to work after the birth of a child when they are allowed a satisfactory amount of time off from the job to recover physically and bond a her new baby. Mothers of newly adopted children are also more likely to return to work if given adequate time to bond with their new children.
IBM Delivers Milk
One high-tech giant — IBM — has recently announced a novel new approach for integrating work and family needs: breastfeeding female employees who travel on company business can have their breast milk shipped home free of charge. Previously, traveling mothers had little option other than to pump and dump expressed milk, a situation that was wasteful, frustrating, and required the baby to feed on something else while mom traveled.
Women in the IBM Workforce
Barbara Brickmeier, an IBM vice president of benefits, says the company is experimenting with this policy to gauge interest but if it helps women balance work and family, the policy will continue. Women make up about 29% of the total IBM workforce, including 25% of its global management staff. IBM’s Ginni Rometty is one of only 24 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
High-Tech Family Policies
Innovation and competition are the backbone of the high-tech industry and when one company devises a winning solution to a product or policy, others often follow suit. The industry catches flack for its lack of gender and ethnic diversity but it does value employee retention. To encourage a return to work as a family grows, some new family-friendly innovations include:
- Netflix offers mothers and fathers up to a year of unlimited paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child.
- Facebook and Apple help female employees freeze eggs.
- Facebook also offers sperm donation and surrogate parenting assistance, four months paid leave for moms and dads, subsidized daycare, and $4,000 for each newborn or newly adopted child.
- Change.org offers up to 18 weeks parental leave for either parent and Twitter and Google have similar policies.
- Google found new mothers were twice as likely to return to work after it extended its maternity leave policy from 12 weeks to 18 in 2007.
Breastfeeding on the Job in the Rest of America
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) requires businesses with 50 or more employees to provide breastfeeding mothers ample and flexible break time to pump breast milk during a work shift for a full year after the birth of a child. These companies must provide a place “shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public” for breast pumping. Breast pumping in bathrooms is not allowed under any circumstances anywhere ever. Whether or not breastfeeding moms get paid while pumping depends on the company’s break policy for all employees.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees are encouraged but not required to offer the same breastfeeding liberties to their working mothers. Where state policy allows more generous opportunities to pump, state law trumps federal guidelines.
The ACA requires all healthcare insurance plans to cover the cost of breast pumps but individual plans offer different terms:
- Some cover rented pumps while others cover newly purchased pumps.
- Manual or electric pumps are decided by individual plans.
- Length of coverage time varies.
- Whether coverage begins before or after baby’s birth varies.
- Breastfeeding supplies such as bags and bottles are tax deductible.
- Lev-Ram, Michal. "No more pump and dump: IBM plans to ship employees’ breast milk home." Fortune. TIME Inc. Network, 13 July 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.
- "Wage and Hour Division (WHD): Frequently Asked Questions -- Break Time for Nursing Mothers." United States Department of Labor. US Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.
- "Breastfeeding: Pumping and breastmilk storage." Womenshealth.gov. US Department of Health and Human Services, 3 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.