Ikea, the Swedish mega-retailer and home of that piece of furniture you never figured out how to assemble, just took a major step in an effort make families' lives easier. On Tuesday, Ikea announced a 16-week paid parental leave policy for all employees. Even hourly employees. It's a huge move that sets the bar pretty high for other retailers.
It's one thing to work at a large company and get nearly four months of maternity leave. Or even paid maternity leave (don't even get started with paternity leave). But a big box retailer offering paid leave for all new parents is a really progressive move. Of course, there are some stipulations, but it's still all around a pretty generous plan.
As of January 2017, all Ikea employees in the United States will be eligible to take three months of paid leave if they've worked a year at the company. Workers can collect full pay for their first six weeks and then half of their pay for the second six weeks. Employees — from corporate managers to stockers — can take the full four months if they've worked for the company for three years. The same math applies, they receive full pay for eight weeks and half pay for the second eight weeks. All of that comes on top of whatever short term disability they are eligible for.
Lars Petersson, president of Ikea's U.S. division, told the Associated Press that the new policy will certainly trickle down to customers. "We want [employees] to take time off. The home is our arena. We think the home is the most important place for people," he said.
The move follows on the heels of the company raising its minimum hourly wage to an average of $11.87 and offering unpaid sabbatical for all employees, even those who are just part time. The sabbatical can be up to a year, depending on how long they've been working for the company. This is way up from the 30 day personal leave it used to offer.
All of this is way ahead of other retailers, and even other companies in general. According to the Bureau of Labor, only around 13 percent of American workers get paid leave. Petersson says it's not about copying Swedish values (where the company is from) as much as it is just promoting a healthy work culture.“This is not so much to replicate anything we do in Europe. It’s just to take the values and culture ... and transform that into the U.S. reality," he told The Huffington Post.
Whatever works, right? It's amazing to give even part time employees, as long as they have some tenure, paid parental leave. It means that the people that make up Ikea's heart, and their families, come first — which can be easy to forget in the workaholic culture here in America.