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Sweetgreen adds 5 months of parental leave as an employee perk

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Aiming to set a new standard for the restaurant business, the Sweetgreen fast-casual chain has expanded its employee benefits package to include five months of paid leave for new parents.

The paid time off will be extended to new mothers, fathers, adoptive parents, foster parents and “others with new additions to their families,” Sweetgreen’s co-founders said in a statement aired to employees and the public.  

The offer is open to both full- and part-time employees who work in headquarters or one of the chain’s 92 or so restaurants. Participants must be on the payroll for at least six months to qualify. 

“This move is rare for our industry and we hope this creates a conversation for other companies to join,” Sweetgreen’s founders said in their signed statement. The signees were Jonathan Neman, Nathaniel Ru and Nicolas Jammet.

Paid parental and family leave are still rare in the whole business community, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As of March 2017, the benefit was offered by just 15% of employers nationwide, the DOL statistics show. 

Paid family leave, which typically provides time to care for ill family members as well as a new addition, is mandated by five states and the District of Columbia. In those jurisdictions, the funding is usually generated through a small tax on employees’ paychecks. Their leave pay is drawn from the pool created in that fashion.

Elsewhere, federal law guarantees employees up to five months of leave time for extraordinary family developments, with an assurance that their prior job or a comparable position will be waiting for them upon their return. Employers can keep paying staff members during their time away from the job but are not required to do so.

Paid leave is “a more just benefit,” the chain’s co-founders commented. “We believe it is our responsibility to lead the way given the U.S. is one of the few countries that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents.”

Starbucks added six weeks of paid family leave as a benefit in 2018. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed that his state mandate six months of paid leave for new parents. 

On the federal level, Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have proposed mandating paid family leave of up to three months.

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