By Shiloh Butterworth, Director of Employee Experience at PAE
At PAE, we wanted to take a meaningful step toward addressing this issue. As a triple bottom line engineering firm on the West Coast, we pride ourselves on doing things a little differently. We’ve built our business on innovation and a commitment to sustainability, and we decided to use our innovation skills to make the work-life juggle more sustainable for our employees.
In January, we began offering a new benefit which we call “Wellness Leave.” It provides up to 6 weeks of full salary for any PAE employee welcoming a child through birth, adoption or foster placement or dealing with a serious health condition of their own or a loved one.
Wellness Leave is designed to be as inclusive as possible. It’s gender neutral, and it’s not just about parental leave. We believe that supporting men to be equal caregivers is an important step to leveling the playing field when it comes to women's career advancement. When announcing the leave, we sent a clear message to all our employees -- men and women, Millennials, X-ers and Boomers -- that use of this leave is encouraged. We’re proud to say that the very first employee to use the leave was a man. And we have seven women set to use Wellness Leave this year to welcome a baby -- we soon expect some dads will be letting us know they’ll be using it too!
Many of our women engineers at the firm are the primary breadwinners for their families. One of the first emails I received in praise of the policy was from a pregnant woman who wrote to say just knowing the policy was there for her had already had a positive impact on her family. She no longer had to worry about rushing to find child care so she could hurry back to work for financial reasons.
Our goals for Wellness Leave involve the usual things: recruitment, improved retention, good morale. But our secret wish is for 100% retention -- and for our employees to know how much they matter to us. At the end of this year, we’d love to be able to report that each and every employee who used Wellness Leave came back to work happy and healthy at the end of leave.
PAE hopes to inspire others in the industry, and the nation, to create a work culture that gives employees the flexibility and financial stability to be there for their families when it’s most important.