NEW YORK – Ikea's U.S. division is offering longer parental leave to employees who are new parents, following similar overtures from tech companies like Netflix as it strives to keep good workers in an improving job market.
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The ready-to-assemble furniture chain said Tuesday it will offer its 13,000 salaried and hourly employees in the U.S. up to four months of paid parental leave. Effective Jan. 1, the policy will apply to mothers and fathers who are birth, adoptive or foster parents. Ikea had previously given women giving birth five days of paid leave in addition to six to eight weeks of paid disability leave.
Ikea's move, part of its drive to improve its relations with workers, follows pay increases in the past two years that brought the average minimum hourly wage to $11.87. With unemployment at a nine-year low, many companies are trying to retain workers.
Lars Petersson, president of Ikea's U.S. division, told The Associated Press the parental leave expansion will give employees a better feeling about the workplace and will mean better service to customers.
"We want them to take time off," he said. "The home is our arena. We think the home is the most important place for people."
The plan gives Ikea employees of more than a year up to three months of paid leave, at full base wage for the first six weeks and 50 percent after that. Employees of at least three years can take up to four months, with eight weeks at full pay and eight weeks at half.
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Apart from parental leave, Ikea is offering an unpaid sabbatical for all employees, including part-time workers, based on tenure, for up to a year. Previously, it offered a personal leave of 30 days.
Overall, paid maternity and paternity leave in the United States lags behind standards established elsewhere. In the U.S., paid leave after the short-term disability leave can be sparse. Federal law requires only unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Still, companies like Netflix, Adobe and Microsoft have made changes recently.
Netflix announced last year it was giving parents "unlimited" paid leave for up to a year following the birth or adoption of a child, meaning they can take as much or as little as they would like. Target Corp. also expanded its plan, and salaried and hourly employees who average 20 plus hours a week and have one year of service can now get two weeks of paid leave. It applies to employees who are giving birth, their partners, those who are adopting or becoming parents via surrogacy, and foster parents.
Still, "these companies don't represent what's happening in the U.S. labor market," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group.
AP Technology writer Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.