How Refreshing! Coca-Cola Expands Paid Family Leave Beyond Moms

The soft drink company's new policy allows moms, dads, and adoptive and foster parents to take paid time off.
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Coca-Cola wants more of its employees to "Taste the Feeling" of paid family leave. The soft drink manufacturer's new policy aims to be more gender equal, and "with the times," so to speak.

The company's previous policy allowed new moms to take six to eight weeks of paid leave, but neglected the dads. Beginning next year, non-Unionized moms, dads, adoptive, and foster parents can expect six weeks off, with pay, following the addition of a new family member. Birth moms may also be eligible for an additional six to eight weeks off.

Making an announcement on Coca-Cola's website, chief people officer Ceree Eberly said:

"Fostering an inclusive workplace means valuing all parents – no matter their gender or sexual orientation. We think the most successful way to structure benefits to help working families is to make them gender-neutral and encourage both moms and dads to play an active role in their family lives. Paid parental leave provides time off for parents to truly bond with their new child. We feel it's important for all new parents to take time off, so that when they return to work, they're refreshed, less stressed and at their best – focused, engaged and productive."

The announcement says Coke workers have their millennial colleagues to thank for driving the company to update its family leave policy. According to the company's site, 35 percent of their workforce is made up of millennials, born between 1981 and 1997. In fact, this age group is so valued by Coca-Cola, it created a task force called "Millennial Voices" with the goal of attracting and retaining talented young people.

Twenty-seven-year-old "Millennial Voices" member and policy co-creator Katherine Cherry said, "Paid parental leave isn't just a nice thing to do – it's the smart thing to do for our business. To remain competitive, Coca-Cola must preserve and enhance its talent pipeline. We know paid parental leave will go a long way in supporting our current associates, and it will be a great selling point for recruitment."

Beyond supporting its employees' dedication to family, the 130-year-old company hopes the new policy will remove gender bias from taking leave upon the birth of a child. In other words, if dad takes time off after Junior is born, the goal is for him not to be looked down upon by his peers.

With that in mind, the key will be for employees to actually take advantage of the policy if Coke truly wants it to be successful. Because at my husband's company, men are allowed six weeks of leave, but no one actually takes that much time. Any company can have any policy it wants, but whether employees feel they can use it, and are encouraged to do so, is a different story. Your move, Coke.

What do you think of Coke's new family leave policy?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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