When Mark Egerman’s wife, Alisha, gave birth to their first daughter, Shirin, in late May, he took six weeks off from work to spend time with his new family.
Egerman, co-founder of Cover, a New York-based restaurant mobile payment startup, also wanted to show his employees that it was okay — and encouraged — to take full advantage of the company’s three-month paid parental leave benefit.
“I really did feel I had to show that, ‘Hey, we mean this. This leave is not just on paper’,” said Egerman, 33.
Over the last couple of years, the topic of paid parental leave has been a hot button issue in tech. Recently, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced, to considerable backlash, that she’d take only two of the eight weeks of parental leave her company offers after the birth of her twins. Elsewhere, tech giants like Facebook, Adobe and Netflix have rolled out expanded policies in hopes of diversifying staff and retaining employees — particularly new moms — who tend to quit because of a lack of work-life balance.
Headquartered in SoHo, Cover has offered its 21 employees 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave and subsequent unlimited job-protected leave since launching three years ago. Egerman said he and his co-founder, Andrew Cover, wanted to take the parental leave issue “very seriously,” having it in place before the first employee would need it.
“Parental leave wasn’t just a hypothetical for us,” said Egerman, whose startup employs mostly women.
The anxiety over whether taking leave makes you a poor worker is a “constant problem in high stress environments,” Egerman said. But the new father didn’t want his employees at Cover, which has offices in New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, to feel the same way.
“If you can’t get good work out of people without making them miss their children’s birthdays, you’re just a bad manager,” Egerman said.
While the Family and Medical Leave Act dictates businesses with 50 or more employees give 12 weeks of unpaid leave, only 11 percent of workers have access to paid family leave in the private sector, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. And only 13 percent of companies in the US offer paid leave at all, said Donna Dolan, executive director of the New York Paid Family Leave Coalition.
New York-based tech companies IBM and CA Technologies are among the 13 percent, according to a list of area businesses provided. But those companies, the list shows, only offer 12 weeks and 9 weeks of maternity leave, respectively.
Comparatively, Cover offers an exceptional leave package, both for its value and its inclusivity of fathers and partners, said Dolan.
“What Cover has done is gone beyond,” she said.
While Cover’s policy may be near the top for New York tech companies, Dolan does note that it’s not the best in the industry. She points to Netflix, which now offers new parents 12 weeks to 12 months of paid leave. Others, like Adobe, offers 16 weeks of paid paternity leave and 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, while Facebook offers four months regardless of gender.
Still, Cover’s parental leave benefit, along with its $1,000 monthly childcare stipend for 12 months, puts the company ahead of the game, said Dolan.
“Look at it, you got other tech companies that haven’t stepped up to the plate,” she said. “The fact that Cover has is excellent.”
Research shows that offering paid leave doesn’t hurt a company’s books. Data out of New Jersey and California revealed that programs financed by payroll reductions can bring the cost of paid leave down to less than a dollar a week.
While it’s possible to put a dollar amount on what Cover’s parental leave has cost — and saved — the company, Egerman said he’s more concerned with the policy’s moral and ethical worth.
“The entire bottom line is being a company that talent wants to work for,” he said.