how can we make our benefits more inclusive?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

Would you please consider throwing this out to the readers?

Our U.S.-based organization wants to make our benefits offering more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We’re taking the steps outlined below, and, I wondered if the excellent AAM readers have any other ideas.

1) Expanded Medical Coverage – Providing gender dysphoria coverage through our medical plan for trans individuals.

2) Expanding Sick Leave – Sick leave is being rebranded to Sick & Care Leave. Employees will be able to take off when they are ill, anyone in their domicile is ill (including pets), or when they need to care for someone in a close relationship. Close relationship is not defined with a specified list; rather employees will be trusted to only request this when appropriate and managers will address it if they suspect something is off.

3) Expanded Bereavement Leave – The current policy limits bereavement to a specified list of relationships. That is being expanded to anyone the employee had a close relationship with. A single day of bereavement leave will be provided for a deceased pet, whereas everyone gets three days for the loss of a human.

4) Expanding fertility benefits to all employees instead of heterosexual married couples.

5) Changing our 401(k) retirement contributions – Currently a 100% company match on first 6% of compensation. This is being changed to a 3% non-elective contribution everyone will receive, regardless of whether or not they participate in the 401(k) Plan, and then having a 50% match up to 6% of compensation (if an employee defers 6% of pay, they get 3% company match; if an employee defers 4% of pay, they get 2% company match.)

6) Expanding adoption benefit to include surrogacy as well.

I am advocating for a student loan benefit as well, but management elected to wait and see what impact the federal relief provides before moving forward.

Readers, please share your thoughts in the comments!

{ 909 comments… read them below }

  1. Foreign Octopus*

    My first thought is making sure that the people who are not Christian have the opportunity to take their religious holidays off without having to use PTO (i.e. Yom Kippur, the Eids, etc.). That would be a great thing to do.

    1. Roscoe da Cat*

      I came here to second that. I would suggest a certain number of non-PTO days each year which can be used for religious holidays or events (I added in events for those who don’t practice religion)

      1. Presea*

        +1. This is a leave bucket that should have relatively strict guidelines on its use, perhaps with the aid of a lawyer or some sort of subject matter expert(s), so that there is equity among religious employees of all stripes as well as non-religious employees; employees who are religious may want to use this time off bucket for non-religious events, for example. Or maybe the non-religious category can be something other than ‘events’, but I’m not sure what would be appropriate.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          My employer has Company Holidays for each country + in the US, 4 or 5 “Personal Choice” holidays (depends on whether July 4th is 1 or 2 days) + employee’s PTO. It doesn’t need strict guidelines on its use, just universal availability. As an atheist, I just use them like regular PTO, but I know coworkers who use them for Eids and Yom Kippur.

          The key is that taking those days off is normalized and doesn’t require extra work. They’re automatically available days off.

        2. amethyst*

          It doesn’t have to. My company has “floating holidays” – they’re just a few non-PTO days that do not rollover each year but otherwise have no restrictions on their use. Basically…just don’t ask what the holidays are for. Just give everyone a few extra days and they can use it as they see fit.

          1. plumerai*

            We do have to give some sort of explanation, and people have been denied. We’re allowed to use our birthday as one, and then the atheists like me are stuck trying to figure out an OK use for the other. I have used Christmas Eve before with no questions asked, and Indigenous People’s Day this year. (I am part indigenous but look white and check “white” on HR forms, so our HR folks wouldn’t know it.)

      2. Michelle Smith*

        Thank you for saying this. My previous employer gave 4 days a year for religious observance that you can use whenever you like and while I fully support that, I also felt like the wording of the policy meant I couldn’t use them (as an atheist). I eventually ended up taking Good Friday anyway, even though I am no longer observant, but I would have felt more comfortable if they just made the policy clear that everyone could use them.

        1. Mm*

          Yea, I think the best way version of this is “floating holiday” and then a really long list of options. Include non-religious ones like “Caesar Chavez day” or the day after/before Thanksgiving.

          I do think float holidays that you use or lose are better than extra PTO in this case.

          1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

            That’s what my company calls it.
            We all get 5 floating holiday per year and can be used for any day off. Only stipulation is that you must take the whole day, and they don’t rollover.

            1. Caroline+Bowman*

              Best and simplest option. You use, it must be a complete day and it doesn’t roll over.

              I worked at a place that gave 4 of these and called them Personal days.

            2. Cedrus Libani*

              Mine does this too. We get a few company-wide holidays, including December 24 and 25, but it’s mostly left up to the individual. The floating holidays have to be used in their calendar year, which encourages PTO-hoarders to actually take a few days off. (I just use the floating holidays first, if I have them available – there’s no rule against using them for a sick day, even if it’s a same-day decision.)

            3. Lab Boss*

              Ours is essentially the same. Everyone gets the same number of floating holidays and can’t roll any over (both of which are impacted by job tenure for normal PTO), and they have to be at least half-day increments.

              One messaging misstep when we started doing it this way: the company tried to give a big laundry list of examples of what you might use floating holidays for. The INTENDED message was that you could make a “holiday” out of effectively anything, but a lot of people took it to mean “you must be able to define your floating holiday as something from this list.” Good intention, poorly thought out initial execution.

            4. AcademiaNut*

              I like that.

              Giving *more* holidays to some employees than others based on their religion is going to be problematic (probably illegal, but IANAL). Giving flexibility so that people can take their religious holidays off, or use if for other stuff, is better.

              As a leave type, it’s close to a sick leave then normal vacation time. In many jobs, your vacation request can be denied due to coverage issues or crunch times, but sick leave has to be honoured because you’re not able to come to work.

              Personal days are for things that can’t be rescheduled – religious observances would be one, but also things like dealing with a plumbing emergency, or an important event at your kid’s school, or some one-off family related commitment. So having those be separate from regular vacation time and not rolling over makes sense.

          2. Big Bank*

            PTO = Floating holiday in my company, so I’m lost on this distinction. Regardless of what you call it, a bucket of days that is sufficient to allow people to take their major personal religious holidays off is the goal. And if it’s possible to let people work the default Christian holidays (which for me is just Christmas, but other places give Easter) then they should earn a comp day that they can use on their own religious day (or non religious whatever day for us atheists).

            1. Temperance*

              Floating holidays are typically separate from PTO, and need to be taken in a full-day capacity. The idea is that they’re a “holiday”, you just pick the date.

              1. Koalafied*

                And it varies by company, but there’s also sometimes a stipulation that you can’t use more than 1 or 2 consecutive days as a floating holiday, or that you can’t bookend a longer vacation that you used PTO for with a floating holiday on either end to save 2 PTO days.

                1. That'sNotMyName*

                  As an observant Jew, I would hope the limit is at least two days. Nearly all of our no-work holidays are two consecutive days.

            2. Wintermute*

              The biggest distinctions I’ve seen between the two tend to be A) floating holidays do not roll over. B) Floating holidays used for religious observance are only denied when it’s truly unavoidable (some places the DEI people review denials to ensure there are no patterns as well, or require more justification from managers that deny them than they would for regular PTO) and may be subject to special procedures (exempt from ‘you have to find your own coverage’ requirements, etc) C) must be taken in full-day increments D) are allotted in full on the first of the year or on a quarterly basis rather than accrued on an hours/pay period basis

          3. turquoisecow*

            Yeah my company has one of these. Some people wanted President’s Day off because their kids had off from school and some people didn’t because it’s not really a celebrated holiday so why not work it. The company made it a floating holiday so if you want it off you don’t have to use PTO and if you do not want it off you can take some other day without using PTO.

          4. Crazy Plant Lady*

            As someone from a minority religion, floating holidays to me do not actually give me anything extra for having religious days off. Those of the dominant religion or no religion get extra days off. I have to use them to celebrate my holidays so I do not.

            The only way I’ve seen it done fully equitably (IMHO) is when religious holidays are allowed off on request. We didn’t have a specific number of days. It applied to both salaried and hourly employees. You had to request them from your manager, but I never saw or heard of anyone having an issue with this (obviously with bad management it could be – but that’s a bigger issue).

            It meant I could have Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur off, plus leave a bit early when I was hosting Passover Seder to prep. A colleague was off for Diwali. Others took Good Friday off and came in late on Ash Wednesday. We didn’t have to make up the time or eat into any PTO or floating holidays. It felt so much more inclusive to me than any floating holiday ever could.

            1. Calliope*

              Sorry I find this kind of offensive. Non-religious people may also have obligations that they need to use their PTO for that isn’t a “fun” day off. Floating holidays allows everyone to prioritize those in their life. Just allowing religious days off in request doesn’t.

              1. J*

                As a devout atheist myself, I’m left wondering: why are you offended at a more inclusive policy?

                You can use the exact same policy to your advantage. If you believe in electricity, then we both believe in a higher power that can’t always be seen. Spiritual can be interpreted as an emotional and social well-being. Tell your manager that you are ‘spiritual’, which can include non-religious motivations like an interest in doing good for goodness’ sake. Do some volunteering. Take a birthday off for yourself or a household member and just call it a spiritual day. Take a memorial day to remember a lost parent. Make up a new tradition of taking off the middle day of summer (or a solistice) to have an adult version of a “spree day”. You’ll feel better spiritually having done it; or at least emotionally!

                1. Calliope*

                  Uh because “you can take religious holidays off without using PTO” is not going to be interpreted as take some time off to reflect, take your birthday off, or volunteer. That’s 100% my point. If the policy was phrased to allow those things I would be fine with it.

                  And don’t lecture me. I absolutely take time off to volunteer and for similar commitments. That’s my whole point about religion not being the only reason people need time off.

                2. Spencer Hastings*

                  “If you believe in electricity, then we both believe in a higher power that can’t always be seen.”

                  Oh, come the &$@% on.

                  But people are really talking past each other here — some people are suggesting that this be done as a religious accommodation (thus, non-religious people don’t get an equivalent), and others are suggesting it as a benefit. Determining which of those paradigms is in play is a prerequisite for determining what is a fair or reasonable way to implement it. (Not to mention legal — IANAL, but “sincerely held religious belief” is a term of art that comes up in these discussions for a reason.)

                3. Ace in the Hole*

                  I don’t think this is a very reasonable or fair argument. Effectively, you’re saying non-religious people can still have days off if they lie about the reason for requesting leave.

                  If I want to take a day off for myself, a family member, or a personal commitment… I shouldn’t have to lie and claim I’m doing it because of a spiritual obligation. Your suggestion is equivalent to saying people shouldn’t have an issue with all paid holidays being christian since they can call out sick to get time off for a religious holiday because it affects their spiritual health. It’s a way to work around an non-inclusive policy, not evidence that the policy is actually equitable.

                  If a policy is worded such that it grants additional paid time off for religious observances/holidays, that policy is discriminatory towards people whose religious beliefs do not include holidays (including atheism, but also a number of theistic faiths).

                  I don’t see how it is more inclusive or equitable to offer people extra paid time off based on their religion. Instead, why not just offer a large enough pool of PTO that everyone can take the days they need? My employer offers 14 paid floating holidays, 12 vacation days, plus a separate pool of sick leave. That’s 26 days off per year that can be taken any time… which should be plenty to accommodate just about any religion, but if it weren’t we would work out an accommodation for additional unpaid leave or modified work schedule.

              2. Medusa*

                Nothing that this person said implied that non-religious people have nothing to take time off for besides fun days off. I’m so lost as to how this comment could be construed as offensive. Religious people also use PTO for commitments. Crazy Plant Lady is talking about religious accommodation for people whose religions aren’t given federal time off.

                1. Calliope*

                  There’s one religious holiday that is a federal holiday. Most seriously religious people bht not all take additional days. So you’re talking about religious vs. non religious people not one religion being more recognized than others.

            2. Temperance*

              That’s not really equitable, though. It’s providing additional paid time off for a limited number of folks based on their religious beliefs.

              1. Madeleine Matilda*

                Not everyone is going to be able to take advantage of every type of special leave, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t offer it to those who need it. We provide time off for people to take parental leave when they have children. Should people who don’t have children be given an equivalent amount of time off every so many years? Some workplaces provide additional time off to vote. Should non-voters also get that time off? I don’t think they should. Similarly people who wish to exercise their right to practice their chosen religion should be given leave to do so. Just because someone else chooses not to practice a religion doesn’t mean religious leave shouldn’t be offered.

                1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

                  Yes, this is beautifully put. I am an atheist, but I would think of this as equivalent to carer’s leave – you have to take the time to fulfil obligations of care to your deity/religious community, obligations that atheists don’t have, just like non-parents don’t need parental leave. In Australia, some workplaces have a category of paid time off for “cultural obligations” for Indigenous employees, which is similar.

                2. John*

                  I disagree with your premise – I would absolutely say people without children should be given the same amount of time off as people with children. If it was very important to an employee that they have 6 months off in order to hike the Appalachian trail, I would take that as seriously as someone who needed 6 months of maternity leave – who am I to say that one person’s life goal is more important than another?

                  Having children or practicing a faith are personal choices – the workplace should offer flexibility to support people in their choice, but they shouldn’t be encouraging or discouraging one choice above another by rewarding it with additional time off or monetary benefits.

                  Voting is I think different because voting is a civic duty that society/the employer wants to specifically encourage and reward.

                3. JM60*

                  Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

                  you have to take the time to fulfil obligations of care to your deity/religious community, obligations that atheists don’t have

                  Many religious holidays aren’t about (or aren’t primarily about) fulfilling an obligation. On Christmas for instance, my religious obligation when I was Catholic was only to attend Mass, which roughly takes ~1.5 hrs. The main reason for wanting that day as a paid day off (beyond generally enjoying not working) are reasons other than religious obligations (e.g., enjoying time with family who are also have time off). Since I became an atheist, my reasons for wanting Christmas off have mostly remained the same, except I don’t spend a portion of the day at church.

                  It would be great if my employer would allow people to take another paid day off instead of Christmas if they want, but as an atheist, I would be furious if my company said that only Christians get a paid day off on Christmas.

                4. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

                  @JM60 ( I seem to have run out of nesting?) – yeah, this is where it gets tangled in places where one religion has shaped the national calendar! Australia shuts down over Christmas and Easter and I value the quiet time, plus I guess if you have family it’s good to have a specified period when you can rely on all having time off simultaneously. In theory that “shutdown time” wouldn’t have to be tied to religion but… not really expecting to see that change in my lifetime so it’s moot.

                5. lyngend (canada)*

                  In Canada we have government paid leave for 1 year. I will pay into this every year, and I don’t really mind it. But I don’t plan on having children. I would really appreciate it if I could take some time off at least 1 time in my life under a similar leave without climbing a mountain of paper proving I need time off (for example, it’s extremely hard to prove a toxic workplace if you quit. and it can be hard to get time off for medical reasons.) I personally in the past would have used it to recover from toxic work places while looking for a new job. Now, I’d use it to go back to school for 1 “year” without working (I cannot manage a full time job and school at the same time. plus they occur at the same time) while using savings or loans to cover the costs the ~60% I’d get on a mat leave equivalent doesn’t cover.

            3. another Hero*

              I know people (admittedly in a small company and one where there are things to do when other workplaces are closed) who have only floating holidays, at least for religious holidays. So you can elect not to work Christmas and use one of your holidays, but it isn’t default. I assume this would be difficult to implement in a larger company or, say, a sales department, but it’s what I understand when people talk about switching to floating holidays.

              1. Calliope*

                This is what my last office did. Not Christmas but you could work on more “minor” federal holidays – Columbus Day, President’s Day, MLK Day, and/or Veteran’s Day – and swap them for another day on the next year. It always seemed fair to me.

            4. GrumpyGus*

              Seconding this. My company increased our number of personal days so that everyone could comfortably take off religious holidays or other days of significance and I’m delighted to not have to dip into my PTO for the Jewish High Holy Days. But every time a Christian colleague uses a personal day as a mental health day or for other reasons, I admit I get a little bitter that they get those “extra” days because their holidays are already taken care of.

              1. Calliope*

                I feel like there’s a flaw here in that not everything we take time off work for it just pure fun and nor will it ever be whether we’re religious or not? I mean first of all, plenty of observant Christians do end up taking Good Friday or Ash Wednesday off. So these comments always seem like they’re aimed at non-religious people. And yeah we don’t “have” to use our days off for religious observance but everyone has stuff going on in their lives that may warrant a day off that isn’t sitting by the beach. Like, if it’s important to you and enhances your life, that’s a value in and of itself and the chance to take those days should be distributed equally.

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  I think the point people are making is that religious people have all that stuff *plus* their religious observance.

                2. GrumpyGus*

                  I agree with this! And I suspect my reactions are coming from a company where Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the Monday after Easter are company holidays. If that wasn’t already the case (and I’m seeing from the conversations below that that might be unusual), I would feel much differently.

                3. Calliope*

                  I understand that and I’ve never worked at a place that got Christmas Eve or any time around Easter off so that would affect my thinking. And honestly I wouldn’t even care if I worked at a place that said “just take as much time off as you need for religious observance.” I think that’s a nice and reasonable thing to do for your employers.

                  What I have an issue with is the idea that floating holidays specifically aren’t a “fair” way of handling it because some people don’t use them for religious observance. That’s also a reasonable way of handling things and an employer isn’t required to make up for the fact that one person spent MLK day volunteering and another worked it and spent another day at services but would rather also have volunteered the first day.

              2. Green Beans*

                But even then, you get huge variances between religions on how many holidays they observe, and then you get non-observant people who don’t observe any at all. In my company, the only Christian holiday we get off is Christmas and usually a half-day Christmas Eve. That’s not a huge amount and non-Christian employees can treat them as mental health days (I do.)

                And presumably there is some benefit to taking time off for religion observations for the employee, same as there is for mental health days. There’s just no perfectly fair way to give everyone their holidays off.

                1. Chirpy*

                  I mean…we could give everyone every religion’s major holidays off. Atheists and non-holiday-observant people can do whatever they want on those days, but then everyone gets the same number of holidays off.

              3. LittleDoctor*

                Honestly as someone with a major mental illness, I find the phrasing around mental health days by people who don’t have any mental sickness kind of degrading. I often have to take sick days because I’m hallucinating or delusional and can’t safely work, or because I’m in hospital. For me it’s actual sick days because I am actually sick. The teehee mental health days thing is really grating when you’re someone who is really not well. I don’t oppose days for prioritizing your mental wellness at all but I wish it wasn’t phrased like that.

                1. allathian*

                  I don’t have a mental illness currently, although I have had depression in the past. So yeah, “mental health days” feel like they trivialize mental illness. That’s why when I take a day or two off after a really stressful week or month, I tend to call them “decompression days” or something similar.

                  That said, I have *a lot* of vacation compared to most employees in the US, so our system is set up in a way that ensures that the vast majority of employees have someone who’s been cross-trained to handle their most crucial tasks, and employers have to hire enough employees for this legally required coverage. This also means that someone taking a vacation doesn’t cause hardship for others, as long as they don’t schedule their long vac in the middle of a particularly busy season, which a manager would usually not approve.

                2. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

                  Cosigned all day long and twice on the days where I’m manic as hell and can’t safely make it to work.

            5. Wintermute*

              The problem with just giving them to everyone is that it can run into discrimination issues. Since PTO is considered a benefit someone whose religious holidays are already default days off for the company gets no additional days and that could well be considered discriminatory.

              Giving everyone the same thing is the best way to avoid treating people differently based on their religion.

              1. LlamaDuck*

                So, my question is, how common is it for the Christian holidays to be off automatically?

                Professionally, I’ve mostly worked in hospitals and other emergency settings where there are no default days off. So, I wonder how common is it outside of essential services contexts for everyone to get Christmas and Easter off? Because I can definitely see that throwing off the system. Everyone getting national holidays off, for example.

                1. New Commenter*

                  To answer your question, every office job I’ve had has major Christian holidays (Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and Easter) off as a default.

                2. Wintermute*

                  I’ve worked mostly for places that didn’t take ANY days off (cellular carriers on the tech side) or places that did every federal bank holiday (banks and insurers).

                  For either of those it wouldn’t work all that well, for the cell company because you can’t have that many people off at once no matter the reason and the financial institutions because it would just be cruel and pointless to make people come in to the office just so they don’t get a day off when there’s literally no work to be done because everything is closed including stock markets and the federal reserve file transfers.

                3. Calliope*

                  I have only ever had Christmas off. Not Christmas Eve or anything around Easter. Though I guess I’ve never had regularly scheduled work hours on a Sunday so I have had Easter off by default. My sense is this varies a lot regionally. My (Muslim) Canadian coworker was shocked when he learned we didn’t get a four day weekend aroubs Easter.

                4. Turtles All the Way Down*

                  Christmas Day is a federal holiday. That’s the only religious day I’ve gotten off as an adult (9-5 jobs), although depending on the company and area of the country, some have Good Friday or Easter Monday off.

                5. No Longer Looking*

                  The most common paid holidays in the US (both in my experience and according to a quick Google) are:
                  New Year’s Day
                  Memorial Day
                  Independence Day
                  Labor Day
                  Thanksgiving Day
                  Christmas Day

                  Most of the companies I’ve worked for also provided the day after Thanksgiving and the day before Christmas. Of the list, only Christmas is a JudeoChristian holiday, though New Year’s Day is a religious day for some I believe (orthodox saint’s holiday and I think some pagan sects though mostly those use a lunar calendar).

                6. Not My Cabages!*

                  This is being nitpicky, but to No Longer Looking, please don’t refer to Christmas as a “Judeo-Christian” holiday. Jewish people don’t celebrate Christmas, unless they’re joining a friend or inlaw family celebration. The term judeo-Christian is actually both antisemitic and Islamophobic. (This is something I didn’t know until last year!) if you google search about it a great article from hey Alma will show up detailing the history of that phrase, it’s fascinating.

                7. Ace in the Hole*

                  It varies a lot. My experiences have been…

                  Public university: all major Christian holidays were default days off, because school winter/spring breaks aligned with Christmas and Easter. Also got quite a few non-religious holidays off (thanksgiving, new years, independence day, etc) for the same reason. Depending on position, these might be paid days off, unpaid days off, and there might or might not be options to work those days in exchange for a floating holiday.

                  Restaraunt: no one got any paid holidays. Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving were mandatory unpaid days off because the restaurant was closed. In this case it was not the employer’s preference, it was because one of our major suppliers would not deliver on those days.

                  Retail: No one got any paid holidays, store did not close for any holidays

                  Local government (garbage): six major holidays are semi-closed, run with a skeleton crew and limited services. These include Christmas and Easter, plus several secular holidays. People can work these days in exchange for an extra floating holiday. If the day falls on a normally scheduled day off (i.e. your “weekend”), you also get it as a floating holiday. We also get a substantial number of floating holidays/vacation days that can be used any time.

                8. amethyst*

                  At my company we all get Christmas and Christmas Eve off, but none of our other holidays (at least in the U.S.) are religious.

            6. JugglingPlunger*

              One solution is to do floating holidays, but require that they be used for all religious holidays. I work for a hospital and we get quite a lot of PTO, but we also have to use PTO for all holidays – the hospital’s open on Christmas (though they’re not doing elective surgeries and office visits) so everyone who’s not working gets charged a PTO day. To make this work you’d have to make it possible for people from minority religions to work on Christmas, but in a lot of workplaces that’s becoming easier and easier.

            7. amethyst*

              I mean, you do get extra days off…the days that your religion doesn’t celebrate.

              If everyone gets the same amount of regular holidays and you get to request additional days off, then you’re the one getting additional days off.

            8. Jane*

              I see what you mean, but while Christians are celebrating, for example, Christmas, you could just use it as a day off. While you are using a floating holiday to celebrate a religious holiday of your own, they can just use it as a day off. I believe it ends up working out the same, except you wouldn’t be able to choose the days you get as “freebies” because they are pre-chosen Christian holidays. That’s the part that is unfair. :/

        2. Allura Vysoren*

          One of the very few things my previous employer did right was giving everyone a “personal floating holiday” that you could use basically whenever. One of my coworkers wanted to use it for the first day of deer hunting season. I was going to use it as a bonus day off for a convention that I attend every year. If you wanted to take your birthday off, you could use it for that.

      3. ecnaseener*

        Yes, or at least make sure not to just mirror the legal language about “sincerely held religious belief,” that’s much too narrow – maybe “religious and/or cultural events” would be good if they balk at just “events.”

        1. Education Mike*

          For sure! No one would blink twice as someone who identifies as a non-religious person saying they absolutely cannot work Christmas. holidays are so much about cultural tradition and family time.

          1. Jane*

            Yeah, but only the Christian ones. This country builds its vacations, “cultural traditions and family time,” civic celebrations, and pretty much everything else around Christian holidays. My family isn’t that excited about family time and “cultural tradition” time happening around Christmas – we’d rather gather for Passover – but that’s not the way it works, and when I’ve said I absolutely cannot work on the day of the Seder, it has not been well received.

            1. JM60*

              I’d rather people such as yourself to have the option to celebrate family time and “cultural tradition” on your preferred days instead of days associated with Christianity, but I wanted to address the “only” part of “only the Christian ones”…

              My employer observes 12 holidays, and only 2 of those (Christmas Eve and Christmas), relates to Christianity. The other 10 (83%) are entirely secular holidays. That’s far from “only” Christian holidays.

                1. JM60*

                  None. I get that the 2 holidays related to Christianity are 2 more than 0 related with other religions, but my point is that saying “only the Christian [holidays]” are “about cultural tradition and family time” is a great exaggeration.


                  As a side note, I carefully chose my words “related to Christianity” because some non-Christians, such as myself, celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. To me, this is a bit like many people celebrate Halloween as a secular holiday even though it’s also celebrated as a Christian holiday (All Hallows Eve), and also use to (still is?) celebrated as a religious holiday by some Pagan religions. Though it’s fine if others don’t view Christmas the same way I do.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          This. It doesn’t matter if I take Halloween (Samhain) off because I’m pagan or because I’m really into decorating, costuming and handing out candy to kids, or need to help kids with their school events and trick-or-treating.

      4. Momma Bear*

        Floating holidays would be nice – maybe they use it for vacation or a mental health day instead of a religious day, but that would be secular yet inclusive. Some Christians take off Good Friday, for example, and some don’t. Let them choose.

        I’d also expand parental leave to be genderless and be the same regardless of how the kid got there. Think also about foster parents who may need time for court or just getting necessities for a new placement.

        1. Combinatorialist*

          I don’t think it’s wise to ignore that physically giving birth is a medical event. I think my company does sick leave if you gave birth + parental leave that is genderless and regardless of how the kid got there. So you get “more” if you give birth, but also you do need to do more (since you need to recover physically and bond with the baby)

          1. CG*

            However the kid gets here, though, it is almost always an event that needs PTO – whether that is a foster or adoptive parent needing time off for court, a person who birthed a child needing time off for the medical event of birthing, a person who is undergoing fertility treatments needing time off for related medical appointments, a kinship caregiver needing time for their child’s potential therapies… kids take time! I agree that caregiver leave should be genderless and inclusive of all kinds of families, not just families where one parent has physically given birth. Its not correct to say that birthing parents “do more” than other caregivers – every family is different.

            1. My Two Cents (Five with Inflation)*

              This only works if caregiver leave is separate from the medical leave granted to a “birthing person”. Even if caregiving is equally spread out with other people, recovering from the toll on the body that pregnancy and birth has can take quite some time. And that is without considering postpartum depression and such.

    2. Elle*

      Agreed! At least one floating holiday. Also make sure there’s enough PTO to cover holidays, vacations, caregiver crisis, etc.

    3. Ruby*

      Thank you!! The High Holy Days should be company holidays in my opinion. And I don’t even celebrate them (anymore).

      1. Hello Dahlia*

        My Fortune 500 company calls these Diversity Days. We can take them for whatever moves us (non-Christian holidays, Pride events, etc.). We also have unlimited PTO for work-life balance, but your manager can and will decline them if your job isn’t getting done. We generally don’t have an issue with it, as it’s reserved for salaried workers only – they tend to be more professional.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think the idea of “Diversity Day” is heading in the right direction in both intent and language, but I don’t fully love it because of the implied othering. Go forth! Be diverse! But oh yeah if you’re Christian you get your holidays off anyway because they’re part of the establishment.

          1. Sylvan*

            Kinda sounds like there’s “normal” holidays and “diverse” holidays, which is a little silly.

          2. Dark Macadamia*

            Yep. An individual can’t be “diverse.” It isn’t “diverse” to observe your own religion/culture!

          3. LlamaDuck*

            Maybe the key is, don’t actually make/let everyone take Christian holidays off? People who don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter can work those days, then take other days off instead.

            This is how it works in certain workplaces I’ve been in that have to be open year-round (hospital, etc). Kind of a relief when team members aren’t put out about covering Christmas, because they got Diwali off the month prior.

        2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          *it’s reserved for salaried workers only – they tend to be more professional.*

          Wow. Companies not wanting to pay their workers enough to meet the exemption threshold in no way makes those employees unprofessional.

          Also, in my experience the least-paid folks are usually the ones with the busiest jobs- if their job is not getting done it often means they’ve got way too much for a human being to deal with on their plate- but sure, let’s blame those entry-level people who keep the world moving for being insufficiently “professional.”

          1. amethyst*

            I was assuming the commenter meant their job roles were more professional roles, not that the employees’ behavior was more professional.

            1. Hello Dahlia*

              yes … sorry! The roles are more like analysts, people managers and project managers – workers who normally don’t have someone else who can do the job, unlike production or admin workers.

            2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

              Genuinely, that doesn’t make it better in my opinion? It still implies that hourly workers are not deserving of these perks by virtue of… not making more money. Those admins, those production people, are the people doing the actual work for probably too-little compensation and aren’t eligible for these equitable policies, and yeah, I still think that’s messed up.

              And it’s a lot easier to be up-to-date on your responsibilities if your responsibilities are telling the admins to do a thing, than if you’re an admin trying to juggle three peoples’ orders.

              I don’t see any way to spin this comment as anything other than looking down on the hourly workers, whether or not it’s a personal attack on their behavior.

        3. Anne of Green Gables*

          My institution just added two Days of Personal Significance, which I like better than “diversity day” for reasons that other commenters have already covered. It was added I think largely because we do not get Juneteenth off. They are use-it-or-lose-it in the fiscal year, do not get paid out when you leave, and must be taken 8-hours at a time, not in fractions of a day, all of which is different from our vacation and sick time.

          The wording when they introduced the policy made it clear they could be used for religious or cultural celebrations but that you also are not limited to those. I took one on the first day of school for my elementary-school aged child and will take the other on election day so I can volunteer at the polls. (I do not have to say why I am taking it when I request off.)

          1. Michelle*

            Floating holiday works for me, but I love the “Personal Significance” label! This company is the first I’ve worked for that has floating holidays, which I appreciate. I don’t have to use my PTO (one big bucket) for religious purposes. There are some rules around it, which aren’t perfect, but it’s a huge step.

            You mentioned using one of your days for volunteering. I worked for a company that had not only volunteer time off (which is great) but also time off for voting. I don’t remember the specifics, but I think there was a difference for volunteering to work the polls and time off for actual voting.

            1. Anne of Green Gables*

              Personally I think election day should be a federal holiday, but it’s great to know that some employers will give you time off to vote!

              1. Kristen Saunders*

                I disagree that election day should be a federal holiday. The vast majority of people who have challenges finding time to vote already work in a sector that would not give them off for a federal holiday. Election day as a federal holiday would just give government workers and finance people another day off. Not the rest of the real world. (And most states require an employer to allow you off to vote.)

                1. Rebelx*

                  Or… it should be a federal holiday, with additional limitations on which types of businesses and services are allowed to operate. Only very limited exceptions for essential services (who still would have to ensure their workers are given time to go vote if they wish).

                  Even if most states (but not all, notably) require employers to let people vote, that kind of protection depends on voters being aware that they have the right in the first place, on ensuring employees feel they can exercise that right without negative repercussions, and on employers actually complying (which some may not, assuming most people won’t expend the effort/resources/etc. to sue or whatever).

          2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

            I’m here to upvote a few Days of Personal Significance or Floating Holidays for all employees.

            Also LW, please keep advocating for educational cost and student loan support. Federal forgiveness measures aren’t going to reach everyone who needs them, and they’re little use to any employees whose educational expenses aren’t covered by a student loan.

            1. The Real Fran Fine*

              This. People with private loans aren’t getting any relief here, so it would be nice for an employer to help out with those specifically up to a certain amount.

          3. Anne of Green Gables*

            I forgot to mention that our Part-Time staff also get two personal days, and the number of hours are pro-rated based on their standard schedule. These are the only paid days off our part time staff get.

          4. Curmudgeon in California*

            The few times I worked as a poll worker I took PTO. I wish they would have given me volunteer time for it. (The poll worker’s day, at least in my county, was over 12 hours long. You got there at least an hour before the polls opened, and stayed over an hour after the polls closed.)

          5. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

            I like Days of Personal Significance. I would also suggest something like Community Obligations which could be a religious community or Pride or cultural business for Aboriginal employees (I assume Indigenous people in the US would have similar obligations that don’t line up with the dominant/ Christian culture but I don’t know the context there).

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I have a real problem with companies that have different leave policies for exempt workers than for non-exempt.

          Where I currently work, exempt staff only use PTO in full day increments. The idea is that since sometimes exempt staff will need to come in early, stay late, and work more than 40 hours in a week, it’s okay if sometimes they work less than those 40 hours to compensate. But we also have a policy that only allows staff to have 6 unscheduled absences a year, and since exempt staff can come in late or leave early without tracking it in the payroll system, it’s a lot easier to get away with having a lot of unscheduled absences. In my branch, I’ve seen an hourly worker get reprimanded for having too many absences while an exempt worker in the same building was absent far more often with no consequences.

          If OP’s goal is to have a more inclusive benefits program, I think it’s worth looking into whether or not there’s any difference in the leave options open to people based on whether they’re exempt or non-exempt.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        I would think the goal would be to stop tying company holidays to religious holidays and instead, give employees more vacation days to use as they see fit.

        1. Mm*

          I think the issue, though, is that from a capacity planning standpoint it is easier for many offices to be fully closed on major christian holidays. Giving those as holidays and other days as PTO makes it feel like non-christians have to use vacation time for important holidays. I prefer float holidays that can be used on lots of non-traditional holidays.

          1. Wintermute*

            not to mention that for many companies it would be pointless to have everyone come in on a day that your corporate partners are closed (vendors, suppliers, etc), banks are closed (no payment processing stuff to deal with), and foot traffic is way, way down. Federal holidays are kind of “default” and yes, some of them are tied to religious observances, but that doesn’t change the fact that no one’s going to get anything done if there’s no work to be done and no customers coming.

            1. stater*

              Reading with interest and for good ideas. I’m a government employee who gets most of the state and federal holidays off work, including Juneteenth, Indigenous People’s Day, etc, although realistically due to the nature of our office’s work, we do end up working on some of these recognized holidays and claim comp time. We have a diverse office and I’ve been trying to strike a balance for folks that allows us to be open and available to the public and allows people to celebrate days of significance. A member of the public asked why we were not closed for the Jewish High Holidays and the honest answer was because we currently do not have a Jewish member on our team so we were still open and available to anyone who needs to call/use our services.

              The best suggestion I could give to our current office is that we follow the state holidays, which includes being closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and then being dynamic towards the needs of our team. We don’t close for Eid, but some coworkers will take a few days off and the rest of us work, and sometimes it just works out if some folks had comp time from working on a state holiday for example.

              Some local schools now close to observe holidays that reflect the whole community, which might mean our office is more likely to close for childcare, even if our coworkers do not personally observe those holidays.

      1. Another Admin*

        My company just did this last year. Removed Good Friday, added 1 more floating, and now gives us all 3 floating holidays on Jan 1 instead of one on Jan 1 and one on July 1. It’s a lot more flexible now!

      2. HedgehogOBrien*

        My org did that a couple of years ago – swapped Good Friday for Presidents Day, and then last year we added Juneteenth as an additional holiday.

    4. Venus*

      In my ideal world I would be able to work 25 December and take that day somewhere else. Being forced to take time off for easter and other religious holidays irritates me, although I know that this is almost impossible to change culturally. I think I have 4 days of holiday leave that are based on religion, and it would be such an advantage if those could be used anytime in the year.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I’m a US federal employee. We don’t get off for Good Friday or Easter (which is always a Sunday so for most people who work Monday to Friday, Monday off isn’t even accommodating religious observance).

        I live in a very Catholic area and between the religion and culture influenced by Catholicism I take Good Friday off usually because many other people in my area do. If you’re not having a crawfish boil on Good Friday (which is in direct opposition to Catholic instruction to fast on Good Friday so not Catholic) or walking/riding to a bunch of churches (which can be religious but also can be just tourist looking at old churches) why do you need Good Friday off?

        1. Expat*

          The current Catholic definition of fasting on Good Friday is one “full” sized meal and two smaller meals that do not add up to a full meal. Beverages are not restricted during a fast. And of course, Catholics don’t eat meat on Good Friday, but seafood is allowed. So a crab boil is within regulation. We always had shrimp on Good Friday.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          Just an aside and maybe you know this, but fish on Good Friday is fairly standard for Catholics, at least in Ireland, because the rule about fasting is often interpretated as “no meat.” I always find it a bit amusing that the typical fast day meal in Ireland is fish and chips as that is more generally seen as a treat than a penance, but…that’s the tradition. I’m guessing in your area crawfish boil is the tradition?

          I don’t think many people here actually fast. The norm is just to have fish and chips as the main meal. MAYBE people might avoid things like sweets and chocolate for the day. Yup, the rule is officially also only one main meal and two snacks, but…that is a lot less generally observed.

        3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Just so you know….

          Here in the United States, if you work in the financial world (brokerages, etc.) Good Friday is a holiday. Not because of any religious observances, but because the New York Stock Exchange always closes on Good Friday.

          Not to honor any religion — it’s the day the NYSE holds its annual business meeting.

          Now you know.

      2. Temperance*

        The argument for closing on major holidays (religious and not) is that many folks are going to be requesting off anyway and there isn’t as much work that needs to be done.

      3. Crazy Plant Lady*

        Me too! I would love to be able to work Dec 25th and have another day off for an actual holiday for me. I do have a job where I could work a day without anyone else working and be productive. I know that’s not true for all jobs though. But when it is, this would be a great flexibility.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Ironically enough, I tend to take on-call over Christmas so that the Christians can do family time. I often get to swap for other holidays (like Yule) or get an added PTO day during the winter shutdown.

    5. Rain's Small Hands*

      Add in NOT having mandatory leave over certain holidays – I worked for a company that put the company on furlough over Christmas since “you’ll all be with your families anyway.” And if you need to furlough a plant for maintenance (which was part of it), its a good time to do it. But not everyone spends “Christmas” with “their families”

      I celebrate Christmas, but my husband had an operational role for a big ecommerce company at the time – so he got Christmas Eve and Christmas Day only “on call” and would drag his laptop to my parents. He certainly didn’t get the two weeks we’d furlough the plant for. And my kids would get just the week between Christmas and New Years.

      1. Old Cynic*

        Before we shuttered our business, we closed for the full 2 weeks over Christmas/New Years because, quite frankly, very little work got done then anyway. It was fully paid time off in addition to PTO.

        1. londonedit*

          This is how it’s always been in my experience of book publishing in the UK – historically the printers would all shut down over Christmas, so it became tradition for publishing houses to do the same. Where I work now it’s in addition to our standard holiday allowance of 25 days (plus 8 bank holidays) which was a change the company I worked for made a few years ago – in other jobs I have had to save 3 days to cover the time, but usually only if I’ve had a more generous holiday allowance (if a company only gave the minimum 20 days plus bank holidays, in my experience they wouldn’t ask people to take the time). We also get two additional days a year to do whatever we want with, over and above our holiday entitlement – the idea of those is that you might use them as mental health days, but in practice they’re just two extra floating holiday days.

        2. KRM*

          Yes, we get a so-called “Christmas shutdown” but it’s the week between Xmas and New Years, and it’s in large part because so many people are off anyway, because kids are out of school, it just makes sense for us to have a shutdown. It’s in addition to our vacation, etc.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          Some places that did the two week shutdown would make you use PTO for part of it, which meant that your PTO at that time was mandated. Ticked. Me. Off! I usually arrange to take on-call so that other people can do family stuff. Then I get my full PTO and a relatively quiet week.

      2. darlingpants*

        I work in an industry and location where “end of year shutdown” from Christmas Eve through New Years Day is very common, and includes a lot of plant maintenance. I understand that we’re off for a Christian holiday, and that’s not equitable, but personally I’d be pretty peeved if we switched it to a random other week that wasn’t aligned with school schedules.

        1. Wintermute*

          that is the real issue– right now it’s more or less culturally aligned, things like that only work if everyone is on the same page, if schools are open but businesses closed, or worse vice versa, then you run into child care issues and not really being able to use the time much.

      3. talos*

        My old (worldwide, non-manufacturing) company did this to all employees. Pissed me off. I’m fine having Christmas itself off (I don’t observe, but my family and some friends do, so the one day is fine), but I do not want to spend PTO for the other 4 days of that week.

    6. Sarah*

      I really like how my company does it. We get 6 “set” holidays a year (New Years day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day), plus 3-4 floating holidays per year, to use however we like. The floating holidays were originally Christian religious holidays we got off, but we’re switched several years ago as our workforce became much more diverse. It really works better for everyone!

      1. Lizzie*

        My company does that as well. We got most major holidays, plus 3 floating holidays and 4 personal days, on top of the very generous PTO we get. I’ve been here since the dark ages, so I get 5 weeks, plus those 7 days, so 8+ weeks of PTO. Sick time is separate, but also very generous.

      2. louvella*

        We get 11 set holidays and then a “personal holiday” for the first six months of the year and for the second six months of the year–but that is clearly not enough if you want to say, take off major Jewish holidays without dipping into your PTO. I would be happy with fewer set holidays and more floating ones, but I can see that being more challenging for my organization since we have many departments that require coverage (we operate health care clinics and various social services) and it’s easier to close for a day and have everyone be off than it is to manage with people taking off whenever.

    7. Yes And*

      My former company closed down on one representative holiday from every faith/identity represented on the staff – Yom Kippur, Eid, Lunar New Year, etc. It was a really lovely way to make sure that people who observed wouldn’t be punished for it by accumulating workload.

    8. Jessica*

      Public university here. We just got a new thing this year: you get one day of Personal Observance leave per year that you can use for observance of a religious or cultural date or anything significant to you. The policy was clearly prompted by Juneteenth, and is clearly also meant to help out people with non-Christian religious holidays, but it’s also very emphatically clear that you can use it for whatever you choose and nobody gets to inquire or judge. (I just took mine for my mom’s birthday.) It’s only one day, which won’t get anybody through their religious holidays, but I think the way it was implemented is good.

    9. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’d also add in allowing WFH and flex time for anyone who is fasting for religious purposes. I’d also explicitly make it company policy not to schedule events on major religious events and allow employees to add events to the list. At my work we have event scheduling restrictions around:

      Hopi Kelmuya and Kyaamua (Nov/Dec) and Talangva (July)
      Pascua Yaqui pilgrimage season (around Easter)
      Lunar New Year
      Ram Navami
      Yom Kippur
      Rosh Hoshana
      Catholic/Protestant Christmas (12/25) and NY (1/1)
      Orthodox Christmas (1/7) and NY (1/14)
      Catholic/Protestant and Easter
      Orthodox Easter

      It may look like a lot, but the holidays cluster most years to varying degrees, so it isn’t half as big an issue as you’d think

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My org sends out a notification of dates to avoid scheduling meetings. This is apparently put together in consultation with local religious organizations.

      2. Middle Name Danger*

        Flexibility for people fasting is a great thing to mention – a very observant Jewish friend of mine recently mentioned that fasting goes more smoothly now that she doesn’t need to waste energy on a commute just to sit in an office where other people are eating or discussing food.

    10. CJ*

      Someone below mentioned the issue for atheists and agnostics. The other concern I’d have is people who, for whatever reason, don’t want to be wildly open with their religion and might not kick over the “I won’t be in tomorrow, as it’s Samhain” ant nest. (Especially in that case, since people can, will, and do confuse it with All Hallows.) I know from OP’s description that the company would support a pagan employee, but offices still do gossip – especially if the employee then switches jobs to a less open workplace.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Actually, I wonder if atheists and agnostics could adopt the solar holidays – spring equinox, summer solstice, fall equinox and winter solstice – as “holidays” to celebrate the orbit of the earth around the sun, just so they have “religious” holidays. They are physical, objectively observable, and require no deities to make them happen.

        1. Calliope*

          Lots of people do celebrate those and they are also important to specific religious traditions but you can’t just be like “you need to have a holiday for PTO reasons so take this one.”

        2. TechWorker*

          I would muuuuch rather just have enough PTO that people can take the holidays they need. A company that decides I can have a day off but only if I’m using it to do something religious or ‘an event’ is interfering way too much in what I do in my time off.

          1. JM60*

            It would not just be interfering; it would also be a form of discrimination. If Jewish coworkers get a paid holiday on Yom Kippur, plus all other company holidays, but I (an atheist) only get those other holidays off, that’s discrimination on the basis of me not being Jewish.

            I get why people would dislike having a religious holy day another religion as a company holiday, while not having any holy days for their religion be a company holiday. But I think the answer is to give people more flexibility in which days they get off (e.g., allow people to take Yom Kippur off instead of another company holiday). In a way, you can view PTO as a bunch of holidays, except you can choose which days they’re on.

        3. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

          As an Atheist, no, thank you, I would not feel comfortable lying about having “religious” holidays, especially not ones that actually *are* religious holidays.

    11. LHOI*

      A friend of mine used to work for a nonprofit that never closed their office for any holidays, they just gave everyone the same number of personal holidays to use as they wanted through the year. I think it’s a great idea both for diversity/observance but also just practically–wouldn’t it be great if your school district’s in-service day could be a holiday!?

      1. Wintermute*

        I think that’s ideal if there’s work to be done, but for many businesses it wouldn’t make much sense. I worked for a bank, every other bank was closed, the fed wasn’t sending their files, ACH processing wasn’t going to be sent. It would be pointless to have more than a minimal “keep the lights on and handle disasters” crew there just for the sake of not giving people the time off because it’s a religious holiday.

      2. turquoisecow*

        This seems the most equitable way to go about it and also doesn’t require employees to disclose their religious affiliation, which many of the other suggestions do.

        I also agree, however, that if all the vendor and business partners, banks, customers, etc are going to be closed and there isn’t much work to do (like Christmas Day for example) then it’s kind of silly to be open, unless the business is such that there’s always some work to be done. I once worked retail with a woman who didn’t celebrate Christmas and she argued she should be allowed to work that day, especially as it fell on a day she usually worked. However, even if there were enough people willing to work with her (she was a cashier and obviously couldn’t run the store by herself, at least a few other employees would have to be there including a front end manager or bookkeeper to open the safe and give her a toll), the number of customers would be so small that they might lose money being open once salaries and etc were factored in. That’s just the dominant culture we were(/are) in.

        I think a business in the US could close for Christmas Day based on that requirement but no other holidays of significance. If there’s a way that someone could work on reports or do other things on that day without needing the support of others in and out of the company who didn’t work that day, then let them. But in many industries it just wouldn’t be practical right now.

    12. Drago Cucina*

      I agree. I’m a Catholic in a state where we make up (maybe) 3% of the population. I have holy days of obligation that get a side eye that used to get a side eye when I asked for anytime off. Yes, I have to drive to neighboring county to go to church and would like to get there on time.

    13. SpaceySteph*

      I would rather see at least some of these holidays become company holidays not just optional holidays. I am almost never short on PTO but it is hard to take a bunch of days off for the Jewish holidays while work goes on without me and I have to find coverage for meetings, and come back to a mountain of email. It is extremely stressful.

      Obviously I don’t think its reasonable to turn every religion’s every holiday into a day off, but if you’re giving a week for Christmas, can you at least pick a couple days from each major religion and turn it into a day off for everyone? Maybe some less important federal holidays (f*ck Christopher Columbus, to start) could turn into a work-day instead if needed to manage overall holiday time.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          There’s been an effort to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day, but I’m not sure how successful that’s been. To be honest, I kind of side-eye it for lumping all indigenous people into a single group to be celebrated for a single day.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            I’ll caveat that I’m not indigenous, but I also side-eye Indigenous Peoples Day. The date marks his arrival in the Americas, which is basically the start of his campaign of numerous crimes up to and including genocide against the indigenous population. In my opinion, renaming it does very little to acknowledge that (plus allows many people to keep calling it Columbus Day).

            I think Columbus day should be purged entirely, and an Indigenous Peoples’ day be established some other date that doesn’t coincide with anything Columbus did. I’d like to see some indigenous people involved in the selection of that date, too.

            1. Ness*

              Plus, Columbus day was originally created in response to violence against Italian immigrants. If you’re going to replace Columbus day with something, it might make more sense to honor another Italian American (from some very brief research, Mother Cabrini seems like a good choice), and add Indigenous Peoples’ day on a different day.

              1. LittleDoctor*

                Why should Italian settlers’ role in the colonization of America, and their illegal and unjust presence in North America, be celebrated at all?

          2. 1LFTW*

            I suspect it varies by location. In my very blue area, many of the local cities have more or less officially renamed it as Indigenous People’s Day, and it appears as such on all city calendars and official communications.

        2. Wintermute*

          That’s kind of complicated, a lot of Italian-Americans are very adamant about it, and see it as a day of recognition of Italian-American roots and their role in the founding of America, which isn’t exactly wrong either. You’ll find ardent defenders and critics on both sides unfortunately so someone is going to be offended no matter what you do.

          1. LittleDoctor*

            Mm, as an indigenous person, Italian settlers’ role in the colonization of America is nothing to celebrate. It’s a disgusting event that should be a source of shame. People of Italian descent (and other Europeans, obviously) have no right to North America—indigenous people do.

            1. StephChi*

              As an Italian-American, I agree with you. Columbus Day needs to go, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day should be a different day entirely, that’s not associated with Columbus. I’m a teacher, so we actually get Indigenous Peoples’ Day off, but the district could probably find another one to replace it with, I’m sure!

            2. Wintermute*

              I see where you’re coming from, but Italians were an oppressed minority for a lot of American history. Obviously not to the same extent, but the origin of Columbus day starts with a movement to try to say “we’re legitimate Americans too!” at a time there was anti-Italian violence going on.

              That’s why a lot of Italian-Americans have such a strong reaction to suggestions to remove Columbus day, because it’s rooted in their own struggles with racism.

              That’s why I said that it’s kind of a no-win issue, because people are going to take strong exception no matter what you decide.

              1. LittleDoctor*

                Yeah, but they aren’t legitimate Americans, and they, like all Europeans, should leave or be forcibly deported. They shouldn’t be allowed to vote, to hold citizenship, to own land, to participate in governance, etc.

                1. Wintermute*

                  I think that ship sailed a VERY long time ago. the idea of deporting or disenfranchising 300 million people is silly, even if it were ethical or moral it’s not practical.

                2. Chirpy*

                  I do understand how European colonization destroyed Native cultures, and it’s truly terrible, but consider that deporting people to countries they have only a genetic connection to is never a good idea. And historically, sending enough people means displacing the native people of another place to create a new country all over again.

    14. Picard*

      What one company I worked for did is they had a set number of floating holidays separate from PTO. As a professional company, we didnt have to worry about staffing per se on any particular day so this worked out well. You could work Xmas if you wanted or not. I think we got 10? So basically at the beginning of the year, you did have to set out which “holidays” you would be taking off. And they were otherwise not paid. So if you wanted Presidents Day but didnt care about the 4th of July, then you could take presidents day paid and work the 4th. This obviously worked for religious holidays as well.

    15. Fluffy Fish*

      Yes! We have 2 floating holidays a year. They can be used for religious holidays or really anything at all.

      This is seperate from our vacation leave and sick leave pools.

    16. Anne Wentworth*

      So much this.

      Also, let people work on Thanksgiving and Christmas if they want. It can be galling to be forced to observe a holiday you don’t celebrate (and Thanksgiving isn’t without issues), and have to use personal vacation for your own holidays.

    17. Jen Gregory*

      Yup, that was my first thought too. My company gives a set number of days for unspecified religious or cultural observations that aren’t included on the standard list of federal holidays.

    18. Janeric*

      At a minimum these dates should be in your official calendar of Christian holidays are on that calendar.

    19. Biology Dropout*

      I love this idea. SO much. One thing I wish people would realize about my holidays is that they’re not just fun days to spend in quiet contemplation or recharge or do whatever I want – the last one was a marathon of 7 hours of religious services and a family dinner. Taking very limited PTO or personal days for multiple holidays like this can be hard; and also draining because it means less vacation/time with out of town family/etc.

      1. TechWorker*

        There are plenty of things that people (non religious and religious) do with their time off that aren’t ‘fun’ or doing ‘whatever they want’. I think religion is more intertwined with .. everything .. in the US than where I live, but the idea of getting extra time off for religious reasons is totally alien to me.

        (I do agree it’s unreasonable if you get so little PTO you have to use it all for religious events, but the solution to that is better PTO for everyone, not treating people differently based on religion).

        1. Biology Dropout*

          I do agree with the PTO issue, wholeheartedly. But I will say, living in the US, it’s not uncommon at all to have very limited PTO and to have to use at least some of it around Christian holidays. My former employer closed around Christmas and made us use PTO, and since we had so little that was like 1/3-1/4 (depending on years of service) of our PTO for the year that I had to use on a holiday that I didn’t even celebrate. Leaving me with very little for the holidays I actually did celebrate. My mom went for most of her working life with 2-3 vacation days a year, which she had to decide to use on either the Jewish holidays or a vacation. Know what’s a shitty decision? Having to decide if you’ll see your elderly, sick dad or celebrate the High Holy Days, knowing you can’t do both. It’s a crappy situation in this country.

    20. HowMuchIsTooMuch*

      Are you looking for sonething beyond personal days (the default for religious holidays for most people because it doesn’t require manager approval to use)? Or are you suggesting an increase in days so it covers more holidays? The number of days required to cover all of the necessary holidays for an observant Jew is pretty high – should they all be bonus days? That’s a lot of extra time.

        1. TechWorker*

          ??? I just really don’t get this.
          I understand that people with caregiving responsibilities should and do get extra time, but why should you be paid more for the work you do (which is… exactly what free extra time off is) because you are religious? How can an employer possibly fairly judge what a reasonable amount of time off to observe a religion is? Give everyone enough PTO to use as they see fit and keep religion out of it.

          1. LittleDoctor*

            It is caregiving time for them, though – they have a responsibility to care for their deity. I don’t personally follow a religion that requires not working on any specific date, but people who do experience that as just as much a necessary thing as I experience caring for my children. Why should my choice to raise children be rewarded while someone else’s choice to care for their deity isn’t? It’s not extra time off for having fun, for the most part; people who are devoutly religious are generally doing a kind of work on the days they’re off.

            I think employers should take employees at their word. Also, for many religions (like Judaism, for example) there are easily accessible, publicly available lists of holidays that require not working.

    21. FormerEverything*

      My husband’s work calls them “floating holidays.” I think it’s a good term, because can apply to anything you personally might call a ‘holiday.’

      I don’t understand why they don’t just add those 3 or 4 ‘floating holiday’ days to their general PTO, but whatever. It doesn’t require calling out religion explicitly, which makes it usable & useful for anyone.

    22. Future silver banker*

      Yes. We are forced to take time off over Christmas when it is bleak weather. All my family is abroad, all the locals are back to their hometowns with their families, so I am sat at home doing nothing and using up my holiday

  2. Hermione Danger*

    I can’t think of anything to add to this amazing list, but I would like to come work for you.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      It is a great list. The only thing I would add, that I haven’t seen mentioned, would be to have tiered insurance premiums vs a flat amount for everyone. Flat amounts put a higher burden on lower wage employees who end up paying a much higher percentage of their income for medical coverage vs upper management. I worked years ago that had this and it was something like: $75k paid $X amount, then $75-$150k paid a higher amount, and $150k+ paid the highest amount.

  3. mli25*

    Consider shutting down the office for a week during the year (Christmas to New Years, a week in the summer, whatever makes sense for your org) and it be part of the compensation (not require an PTO)

    1. many bells down*

      Both my spouse’s employer and mine do this, and we absolutely love the opportunity to spend a week together with no work obligations. We rarely are able to swing the same time off otherwise.

    2. Pool Lounger*

      My previous job did this and it was a huge benefit. Actually having time to travel to see people, without having to sacrifice vacation!

    3. Lynn*

      Really wish my company would do this! Those weeks often end up being such a waste anyway — the majority of my work is doing things with other people who are not there! (I do call them my “working holidays though” and often spend them deep cleaning my work area, clearing office clutter, and zero-inboxing)

    4. Prospect Gone Bad*

      IDK, my company has done this and now everyone has huge PTO banks unused. I feel like it’s better to just give people time off and the freedom to choose when to use it. Not to mention that most places can’t just shut down for days and days at a time.

      1. bamcheeks*

        That sounds more like a problem with not adjusting the amount of work that needs doing to the level of PTO they’re giving people?

        Most UK universities close 25th Dec – 1st Jan, and one massive benefit of it is that you don’t come back to tons of work to catch up on. And *incredibly* helpful when it coincides with school holidays.

        1. londonedit*

          Same in my industry. We close between Christmas and New Year and it’s great that everyone can come back to the office in January without a ton of stuff to catch up on. We also can’t take more than five days’ holiday over into the next year (and anything taken over has to be used by the end of March) so if you don’t take your holiday allowance then you lose it. In 2020 we ended up with people having loads of time still left to take in the last three months of the year (because we basically couldn’t go anywhere for weeks on end with the lockdowns and people were hopefully waiting until ‘things were normal again’ before they booked holiday, ha) so they extended it to carrying over up to 10 days that you could take at any point during 2021, but we’re back to normal now. We’re very much encouraged to take holidays – both because it’s a financial liability for the company but also from an employee wellbeing point of view.

        2. Lab Boss*

          Underrated stealth benefit to the company closing its doors for a synchronized week. I’m someone who will usually check my e-mail a few times during vacation, because I’m more relaxed making that tiny sacrifice and coming back to a manageable e-mail backlog than I would be disconnecting totally and having hundreds of messages and multiple emergencies waiting for me. Everyone’s gone? No piled up e-mails.

      2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        The benefit of the entire company shutting down at the same time is that people (generally) can truly unplug and enjoy the time. Lots of places manage it – I work at the HQ of a manufacturer and we manage it! We office workers actually get the shutdown week because the labor unions negotiated it for the plant workers, and the company decided to extend that to all employees.

        You’d still be able to take whatever time off you wanted at other times, right? But during that shutdown time you can breathe easy knowing that no one is expecting reports from you, emails aren’t going unanswered, the work isn’t chugging along without you and you won’t have a huge pile waiting when you get back.

        It’s really nice for places that can manage it.

      3. Biology Dropout*

        On the flip side; my former workplace did a weeklong furlough around Christmas and made us use PTO. Which then meant I had even more limited time off for the holidays I actually celebrated. Don’t do this. It’s not good.

    5. CTT*

      I would caveat that this only works if no portion of your business truly does any work during that week. I’m a transactional attorney and that’s typically a busy week for us. Last year when New Year’s Day was on a Saturday, there was a mini uproar when our firm initially announced that we would observe the holiday on 12/31, which put all the transactional people in an awkward position of really needing staff help for our closings but also feeling like monsters for making them come in on what was supposed to be a holiday. So if you close that week, do the research to confirm that no one will have to come in and feel resentful about it.

      1. ferrina*

        We close that week for 90% of the company, but a few people typically still need to work due to the nature of their jobs. These folks get additional comp time that they can use at their discretion (and some of them work half days or minimal hours during this week). It works really well for us.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          Yep. I’m a corporate accountant and my group can never enjoy the Summer Shutdown (week of July 4th) because we have to close the books.

          But that just means that the accounting groups take their own “shutdown” a week later if we can/want to. It’s not quite the same as the relief of being able to fully unplug, but it’s close.

      2. Pisces*

        That reminds me of the time several attorneys at ThenEmployer wanted heavy admin overtime the Saturday of the office holiday party.

        In past years when Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fell on Mondays, another PastEmployer wouldn’t give us the a four-day weekend because our finance department would still have had to work both days. Scrooge a.k.a. the firm’s chief administrative officer didn’t want to pay them holiday pay.

    6. C-Dub*

      A non-profit I briefly worked for in 2018 did just this. They shut down during the week of the Fourth of July and between Christmas and New Years every year. I started that job in late June, and due to the July shutdown I was able to fly back to see family. It was really nice.

    7. Language Lover*

      I agree. The reason I like this is because it’s nice to take time off knowing that I don’t have to find coverage or catch up when I get back or feel an internal pressure to pay attention to what’s happening at work even if it’s just passively so because everyone else is off.

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      My workplace (a university) finally started doing this, which most of our peer organizations had already been doing, during the pandemic. I was delighted!

    9. Spicy Tuna*

      Dislike… people should be able to take off when they want to take off. When I was young and single, I really would have dreaded a week off between Christmas and New Year’s. I lived far from family and didn’t have the budget to travel. It was a really lonely time of year for me and work was a nice respite from the sadness.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Also dislike. I worked at an org that did this but in my case it was annoying because I live near my family and don’t need to travel for the holidays, and the week was given in lieu of an extra week of PTO. I would have FAR preferred to get the week of PTO to use whenever I wanted to instead of sitting at home in the cold doing nothing. An extra week of summer vacation would have been way more useful enjoyable for me and honestly, being in the office that week when most people would have been away would have been nice, I like quiet offices.

        Is it unfair to those who do need to travel for the holidays to not close the office during that time? Sure, I guess. But the situation was unfair to me since I didn’t get to choose to take my vacation when I wanted to. And it was annoying in another respect, because not only did the org close that week, they also didn’t allow people to take any other time off in Dec. So say I wanted to do a nice warm vacation in Dec since I didn’t have to travel for the holidays, I’d have to do it in the last week in Dec when everything is a lot more expensive.

        I guess what we’re all saying is, closing the office between Christmas and New Year’s can be a nice perk, but maybe do it in addition to PTO instead of as a required week of PTO. Or have people opt out if they want and get the additional week of PTO to use any time they want.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          But the benefit that is suggested is that the shutdown time is in addition to your PTO/isn’t counted against PTO.

          So you still get your 10-15 days that you already have, but you also get that week off, fully paid.

          1. Spicy Tuna*

            I get what you are saying but I wouldn’t have cared that it was free time off… I still would have been horribly sad, lonely and bored.

            1. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

              I’m sorry, I truly am, but I feel like if you’re saying that you wouldn’t want literally everyone else to have an additional paid week off because it wouldn’t benefit *you* personally, that’s kind of messed up.

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Full disclosure: I still did get 2-3 weeks PTO depending on how long I worked there, but my notion was that if the org could afford to give everyone another week off, it would have been nice to be able to choose when I took mine. Sure, it was lovely on Christmas eve every year when we all went home and knew we would get a week off from work, but I still would 100% have chosen to take PTO a different time if I could have.

            And now that I think about it, there were a couple of people who still worked a day or two that week because they were so overworked. So the office still wasn’t even really fully closed. I suppose those people might not have taken a different week of PTO if they could have, but since they were financial people they were obviously trying to get the year-end stuff done and it seemed a little unfair for them to have to come in (even by choice) when the office was technically closed.

      2. Mouse*

        Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame. My employer closes for the week between Christmas and New Year’s (you *have* to use your PTO to cover the bits of this that aren’t bank holidays), and I don’t celebrate Christmas, can’t afford to travel during that time, and all my friends are busy, so I just…sit home and play video games? Resenting the fact that had I been working somewhere else, I could have used this PTO to travel somewhere cool or visit folks at a not-Christmas time?

    10. anonymouse*

      A previous employer did this and I super miss it. I get that not all folks celebrate Christmas and I’m not at all religious. But having the company shut down for a week meant being able to fully sign off for a whole week and not come back to a barrage of emails to sort through (which sometimes makes me dread taking PTO). And because everyone was off there was no trying to arrange coverage or training people on tasks like when you take a longer vacation. It’s a huge benefit against preventing burnout. Frankly I wouldn’t care when a company scheduled this so if doing it during the summer is preferred as like a summer break that’d be great too.

    11. HedgehogOBrien*

      My employer does this and I LOVE it. It’s a huge, huge benefit especially since my husband is a teacher and my kids are in school, now our schedules all align. I do celebrate Christmas (although I don’t consider myself particularly religious) and it’s such a relief to be able to take time to be with my family, bake, watch movies, do all that fun stuff, and the entire office is shut down so I don’t feel the need to check in or follow up on anything. It’s a real break, which is so valuable.

      1. Covered in Bees*

        How nice for you. I’d love to have my office shut down for a week around Passover, so I could travel to be with my mother, cook with her for a week before the seder and learn her unique cooking magic that can’t be captured in written recipes.

        But hey, if I worked at your office, I’d get to sit around on my tuchus for a week in December, avoiding going to any stores because of the chaos, doing chores and waiting to be allowed to go back to work.

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          This whole thread is making me very “yikes” about USian work culture, with so many people saying it’s impossible to take a week off to travel & see family when they want to (a week! Not a month! Not even a fortnight!) plus, Covered In Bees, I think you’re the second person I’ve seen saying that a week off work at a time when you don’t have religious/family obligations would be spent “waiting to get back to work”. This seems to be uncovering a deeper / different problem with work that better distribution of holiday days can’t fix (though that better distribution is a really important aim in itself!)

          1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

            On the other hand I’m an atheist, I don’t celebrate any religious holidays, I haven’t been in the same country as any of my family for 4 years and I would do pretty much anything to get out of spending a week with my mother, so there’s definitely something I don’t fully grok here. I have a partner I like hanging out with, a stack of books, a stash of yarn and a neglected garden, so a week when the uni’s closed is always a bonus. Especially when I also get the schadenfreude of knowing so many of my colleagues are doing the traditional Aussie Christmas (four days in a car with kids in stationary traffic in 40-degree heat traveling between the households of all four grandparents and their new spouses)

        2. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

          I don’t understand this. I’m an atheist who doesn’t celebrate Christmas – and in fact, I find its omnipresent jingle jangle to be truly obnoxious and oppressive – but I’d kill for a paid week off in December when I knew everyone else was off too so I wouldn’t have a crap ton of stuff to come back and catch up on.

          I also don’t understand why sitting around on my tuchus for a week would be a bad thing — there’s always books I want to read, movies I want to watch, crap I want to catch up on, and naps to take.

    12. OyHiOh*

      I’m torn on this one because from my point of view it assumes that everyone celebrates “the holidays” (Christmas/New Year), forgetting of course that lunar/solar holidays like Hanukah can be as early as late November and as late as the last week of December, and that others are tied to the solstice, which falls days before December 25, not to mention that the various Christian Orthodox churches use the Gregorian calendar and Dec 25 in the Gregorian does not align with Dec 25 in Julian . . . . and also, as a single parent, appreciating that this kind of strategy means I don’t have to find and pay for childcare for kids who are out of school that week.

    13. Covered in Bees*

      Organizational support for taking breaks from work is good, but don’t do it the week between Christmas and New Years. That’s just preferential treatment for your Christian employees… glaring, overt preferential treatment of Christians.

      1. Covered in Bees*

        And don’t come at me with that “holiday season” business. Stop trying to make Hanukkah into another Christmas, it’s a minor holiday.

        1. Biology Dropout*

          Right!? My former workplace made us take PTO for their “holiday week shutdown,” which left me very little left for the Jewish holidays I actually celebrate. I would have loved to have spent a week with my family for Passover… but no, I had hardly any PTO left for that.

      2. John*

        Alternatively, if you’re going to close the office down for a week, it makes sense to do it when 70%+ of your employees would be using PTO anyway.

        As long as it’s an additional benefit, and not coming out of your PTO bank, what’s the harm? You can always travel someplace warm during that week.

    14. DontCloseTheOffice*

      Ewww, I hate when companies do this. I don’t celebrate Christmas and this is often one of the most productive times of the year for me because it’s quiet. If you want to give me extra time off let me take it when I want to take it.

    15. The Real Fran Fine*

      I wish my company would do this at the end of December. No one is ever around anyway, so my team can’t really do any work, but I have to use my PTO for any days that aren’t Christmas Eve/Day and New Years Eve/Day. *sigh*

    16. Ginger Pet Lady*

      Honestly I have mixed feelings on this. Sure, it’s great for employees.
      When my kids were away at school and couldn’t use our insurance where they were, I always tried to schedule doctor and dentist appointments when they were home for the holidays. But they were all closed! This made simple medication refills and dental cleanings very expensive and difficult. Everything was out of network and/or out of pocket.
      I’ve also been unable to schedule a family photo while they were here.
      So it’s very frustrating as a customer.

  4. Neon*

    I suggest adding as much flexibility as possible to who employees can add to their medical plan.

    Not just expanding “married spouse” to include “non-married romantic partner” (although that’s a good start) but also allowing people to add other adult family members, multiple partners, children for whom they provide care but do not have custody, etc.

    There may be some hard limitations here imposed by the plan providers and/or the law, but I’d advocate to allow as many people as possible to be covered within those boundaries.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Absolutely agree. My partner and I both have decent insurance through our jobs, so I’d love to be able to add my mother onto mine, but that’s not an option.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yeah unfortunately that may not be feasible with the US insurance market. The most inclusive plans I’ve seen only include domestic partners (e.g. not married but living together/in a long-term relationship) and children up to 26 because that’s the law now. It’s a nice thought, and the ACA does provide for some of those gaps.

      1. Robin*

        So that is interesting to me because I put my partner on my insurance (living together, unmarried) because my insurance covers a “domestic partner”. But none of the information I provided proved anything about our relationship. I could have put in a roommate if I wanted to. I am also not sure if there is even a mechanism to check that we have the same address or anything. If not, I could have put down a random friend or family member.

        I am limited to only one Domestic Partner, which is unfortunate. But I am curious what the actual enforceable limits on this designation are.

        1. Adequate Archaeologist*

          My husband and I didn’t have to prove our relationship on our first two insurance policies, even though we have different legal last names. They literally didn’t question it or ask for further details, just took our word for it. I could have easily put down my roommate! When my husbands company got bought out and put on the parent company’s insurance they required a copy of our marriage certificate (which was the first and only time we’ve ever had to prove we are married).

          1. MigraineMonth*

            When I started at BigCompany, they also added my spouse to my plan, no questions asked. It was somewhat awkward, since I did not actually have a spouse.

            1. LilPinkSock*

              Yikes, really? I’d be irritated for a lot of reasons–not least because monthly premiums beyond just the employee can cost a fortune!

          2. Antigone*

            I’m about to turn down an otherwise great job fit because they don’t have domestic partner health insurance. They DO cover per insurance. It leaves a very weird taste in my mouth about how this workplace approaches nontraditional family structure.

        2. Need More Sunshine*

          The onus is on the employer to gather evidence, usually an affidavit that you’re supposed to sign. But many employers will just take your word for it.

          1. Middle of HR*

            Just wanted to note as someone who admined health plans, it will be potentially disastrous if you get caught adding someone ineligible.
            The insurance company didn’t press charges on the folks who committed the fraud in our case, but it is legally fraud, and the response was to terminate insurance coverage retroactively.
            So they were faced with being to pay for any claims the ineligible person had out of pocket back at least a year.
            These things do get audited even if infrequently! Don’t be reckless!

    3. Viki*

      So that wouldn’t be something the company would be able to do, as they are contracting out a health insurance plan from an existing company that has strict relationship definitions/policies.

      The insurance industry would have to (should IMO) do a re-haul on defined relationships, but unless that actually happens by the industry no insurance company would be willing to underwrite that plan.

      1. Neon*

        Could LW’s company pay for separate health insurance for the other people in non-traditional family structures who would not be covered by the current inequitable health insurance setup?

        It seems impossible that there’s not *some* work-around that would result in an employee being able to extend health coverage to (for example) their parent or other romantic partners at negligible cost to that employee.

        1. Calliope*

          You could give them a stipend to buy health insurance on the market but it would be taxable as income. And then you would get into why everyone else shouldn’t have extra income for their various family commitments.

      2. Tacos McSalsa*

        Depends on whether the insurance company is the plan sponsor or plan administrator (sponsor = pays the claims from their own funds, administrator = adjudicates claims and pays from the employer’s funds). If the employer is the plan sponsor they have more freedom in who they allow to enroll in the plan. If one large employer in a competitive hiring environment started a push to cover say an entire poly household you’d start to see this happen.

          1. Imtheone*

            Isn’t it that health care law has requirements, but the health insurance or self-insured company can offer more benefits?

    4. Firm Believer*

      I don’t think I agree that it’s an employers responsibility to insure all of these people. Seems a bit overboard.

      1. KRM*

        That’s why it’s a benefit that you could opt into. It’s not required.
        It’s moot due to current laws around insurance, but if those were to change, it would be nice for someone to be able to choose a plan to cover their multi-generational household.

      2. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Nobody said it’s the “employer’s responsibility”, so you’re not disagreeing with anyone. Health insurance offered by employers literally started as a competitive benefit, which is why we have this horrible system now. Why can’t this just be another benefit?

      3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Right now my married colleagues have the option to add another adult (spouse) to their insurance, but I, a single person, cannot extend that benefit to a sibling, niebling, or close friend (unless I marry her). I think a limit of one person in the “spouse” slot is pretty reasonable, but I’d like to have that option without changing my marital status.

        1. JustSomeone*

          As someone with two committed, long-term life partners, I disagree that there is anything inherently reasonable about limiting benefits to one “spouse” slot. Folks aren’t capped at coverage for just one child, and that doesn’t cause the system to fall apart. And yes, this is definitely a pet issue/sore spot for me; my legal spouse and I are on my insurance, while my other partner has to purchase through the exchanges because his tiny company doesn’t offer benefits at all. Not only is this financially crummy, it also means I have to do lots of extra work to make sure any medical providers take both kinds of insurance if I want our family to all be able to see the same doctors.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            “my legal spouse and I are on my insurance, while my other partner….”

            The keyword is LEGAL. Bigamy is prohibited in the United States, and Canada.

            Your company likely sees no need to cover multiple life partners. One can easily see how that can also be abused.

            1. JustSomeone*

              “ Your company likely sees no need to cover multiple life partners.”

              Yes. I’m very aware of that. And part of equity and inclusion is the acknowledgment that not all families look alike or are structured the same. Maybe a family is one man, one woman, and 14 children. Another family is two women and one child. Another family is two men, one woman, and no children. Another family is one man and three children. An employer shouldn’t be in a position to validate or invalidate those chosen family structures. An employer would never be allowed to say “you already have a child, adding a second would be abusing your benefits.”

        2. AsPerElaine*

          I literally had to get married to get health insurance at a reasonable rate. I’ll admit that health insurance wasn’t the only factor there, but we 100% got married the week after I got laid off because it was a fraction of the cost of buying my own insurance.

      4. SIM Card Erased*

        These people want everyone covered but dont want to pay for it. Insurers start adding anyone and everyone on and premiums are going to be 10k a month.

        1. Neon*

          The idea is for *the employer* to pay for it, like they currently pay for other benefits.

          If the employee has to pay the whole cost it isn’t a benefit. It’s just somebody buying their own insurance.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            Yes, but “the employer” has limits as well. The “employer” may be a publicly-held company, and it is not up to corporate America to re-define what a family is.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Exactly. Just before Obamacare kicked in, the company I worked for did a major audit of their health plan participant pool. They found a number of employees who had listed adult children as “students”, but could not produce a college registration. There were also people who had listed children on the plan – snuck on kids who weren’t theirs (I’m assuming they were children of other family members) or their own siblings.

          I believe that they allowed domestic partnerships – then again, that was extended as a courtesy insomuch as same-sex marriage was not legal across the country at the time. Of course, the partnership was restricted to one partner per employee — no “group marriages” or “multiple partners” or “sister wives”.

          And some companies halted domestic partnership coverage when same-sex marriages were permitted as a nation-wide right. The thinking was/is – if you have such a relationship, the company will support you if you formally wed.

    5. Divergent*

      This would be amazing. For various reasons relating to my neurotype and mental health I can’t live with a partner, and we both miss out on full health benefit coverage because of it.

      1. Temperance*

        Could you and your hypothetical partner live in the same apartment building, so you have the same address? Just pitching an idea.

        1. Divergent*

          While there are several ways we could commit insurance fraud, the consequences could be too great for us to consider it as a legitimate option.

          1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

            I am imagining Maggie Smith saying this delicious line. Sorry about your sucky insurance situation.

    6. Jack McCullough*

      At my employer we do allow some kind of coverage for unmarried partners, and I think this is a good idea.

      The complicating factor is that if the coverage is not for a legally recognized spouse it’s a taxable event, so that the payment for the unmarried partner is taxable income to the employee. Still probably a net benefit given the cost of medical insurance.

    7. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      While some health plans are more inclusive than others in this regard, the limit exists because of how the IRS codifies the use of pretax compensation for health insurance premiums.

      There’s also an incentive for employers to block the add of non-immediate family. They pay a portion of the premiums (usually fairly significant), and allowing an employee to add an expansive list of family would skyrocket benefits costs.

    8. Turtles All the Way Down*

      I think going back to just covering employee and dependent premiums in full would be fabulous.

    9. BerlieGirl*

      At the very least. include coverage for non-married partners. My partner and I have chosen not to get married. I am self-employed and getting good insurance is tough. Being able to be added to his job’s health insurance plan is huge for us.

  5. WellRed*

    My thought is you have a lot of family oriented benefits (which is great! Though 3 days bereavement leave us paltry if you lose a really close person like kid, parent or spouse). But “waiting” to see what the government does for student loans could take years. I’d love even a small bit of that kind of benefit.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Actually the loan forgiveness is set to take effect by the end of the year (the website will be ready this month). It may not be the best or the final word, but we know what they’re doing.

      1. Ellis*

        That only covers the first 10-20k of loans though and doesn’t cover people who consolidated their loans with private lenders when it looked like forgiveness was never going to be a thing

        1. ThatGirl*

          I did say it may not be the best. But the point remains that we’re not waiting years to see what the government is doing — it’s been done, at least for now.

      2. WellRed*

        Thanks for this. Still, I’m afraid there are companies that will wait until lawsuits etc, play out.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Probably. But we know the maximum of what the government will do, in any case, for the foreseeable future.

    2. Anonym*

      Yes, overall these are great, but I did note that 3 days bereavement for someone close to you seems low, especially if you’re having to deal with funeral/estate logistics. My company offers a week for immediate family, which I was grateful for when my parent passed away. (Overall their benefits are above average, but not as good – besides the bereavement – as what OP is proposing.)

      1. good_luck*

        I agree. My husband died and I had a 5 days. The company said I could take as much time as I needed but kept calling me. I could have used a couple weeks.

        1. Another widow*

          I also got 5 days when my husband died, but our bereavement leave is specific in that it starts on the day of death and counts as 7 calendar days. (You can use one day later if the funeral service is scheduled after the 7 calendar days.) There is a lot of unfair things about losing your husband in your 30s, but one of the really petty ones is that I worked a full day the date my husband died and it still got charged as the first day of my bereavement leave. All the people involved were caring and wonderful but the policy just seems so callous.

          1. Yolo1*

            Does the sick and care leave cover paid parental leave for the birth/adoption/ placement of a child? If not, I recommend a policy that offers a minimum of 12 paid weeks for parental leave.

        2. Flash Packet*

          When my brother took his own life, my managers said, “Take whatever time you need, tell us how we can divvy up your work load; we understand that you’ll be in a mental fog for quite awhile. We’re here for you.” And they took two really simple things off my plate.

          And then, a couple of weeks later, they were saying, “Hey, Flash, did you get that TPS report done? What’s the status on the XYZ project? The deadline is quickly approaching. Is the presentation for ABC done yet? What’s the status on this random piece of Huge Project? You should be on top of all those small details.”

          1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

            Oh, I am so sorry. I think this is such a common thing – people know the right thing to say but don’t know how to actually implement the stuff that’s needed.

            So sorry about your brother.

          2. WellRed*

            I’m sorry about your brother. My comments have been related to loss of dad but I lost my brothers few years later. We were Irish twins. It’s simply weird.

        3. WellRed*

          Holy fk! I’m so sorry this happened to you. I can’t imagine calling someone on bereavement leave at all let alone for a spouse. Bastards.

      2. SP*

        My company offers 3 days bereavement as standard, but you get 5 days if you have to travel over a certain distance to attend the memorial services.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          This was what my company at the time offered when my grandmother died, and that was in retail nearly 25 years ago.

      3. Jj*

        I also agree – I think a week is wise. I’d also make sure immediate family is a very flexible category. I have almost no blood family, but I have lived with my best friend for a decade. We are almost platonic spouses. Legally we are nothing, but if he passed it would be just like losing a spouse or a sibling.

      4. Flash Packet*

        I got 3 days bereavement when my brother took his own life. Our mother lives with me and I could have used at least a full week (5 days) just to keep her afloat, emotionally / mentally / physically.

        As it was, I took the 3 days and then got way behind in work trying to care for her, care for me, retrieve my brother’s belongings, close out his accounts, deal with the detectives, arrange for cremation, and retrieve his ashes.

      5. snoopythedog*

        Agreed. Three days is low.

        When my BIL suddenly died, it was complicated, as he died out of state and then other family members had complex health issues crop up. We (husband and I) were uprooted to another city for two weeks to deal with all of the related issues, including arranging the funeral, viewing, getting the body back in state, cremation, burial. Then the funeral date had to change twice because of logistics. Three days wouldn’t have covered anything. I was basically working and keeping my ILs and husband alive- ensuring people slept, saw sunlight, drank water, attempted to eat food for weeks. Luckily my employer and my husband’s gave us “unlimited” time off to deal with logistics. In reality, it was one week for me, plus the funeral day. It took my husband about 2-3 weeks to go back to work. Even then, we were both crappy employees as we stumbled around in a fog of grief (and our workplaces were ok with it).

        When my elderly grandma passed away when I was with my previous employer, I was given three days. It covered the two days I spent at home with puffy eyes from continuously crying and the single funeral day. Didn’t extend to the travel time for the funeral (relatively simple, but still a day on either end) and didn’t include the post-funeral ashes spreading which happened weeks later…again, a plane ride away. Once again, luckily to good management, I was given grace while grieving but at work. My husband ended up taking 5 days off just to support me- one day for the first day, then 4 for funeral + ash spreading days + travel.

        My work recently officially changed to “unlimited” bereavement in order to accommodate those who have complex or longer term bereavement requirements. For example, some Indigenous communities in our area have celebration and grief events for weeks following, which are important for the community to come together and grieve.

        All this to say, three days is paltry. Paltry. Whether it’s to get over the absolute shock and grief to be enough of a functional human being, to coordinate the details around death, or to coordinate logistics or support family members to be functional in their grief.

      6. Media Monkey*

        totally agree (and i’m in the UK so was given as much time as i needed) – my mum passed away fairly suddenly in late January. It seemed fairly certain to happen soon on the Monday am so i went straight to the hospital, my brother and family drove from 500 miles away on the Monday eve/ Tues am, my brother and i spent the afternoon with her and she passed away on the Tuesday evening. weds was spent consoling kids and family and calling a large number of people, Thursday we met with funeral directors. so that’s my 3 days (not even counting the Monday) and i didn’t even have a death certificate or a date for the funeral at that point.

    3. Ann Ominous*

      Maybe 3 days for any loss and x greater number of days if you are involved in coordinating the estate?

    4. lilsheba*

      I have to agree. If I lost my spouse, it would take way more than 3 days just to work through the grief so I could function again.

      1. KRM*

        Bereavement leave is not for a mourning period though. It’s for funeral attendance and some logistics. I agree it would be nice to have more time if you’re involved in the estate, but functionally the truth is that everything surrounding a death takes WAY more time than even a week to sort through. Maybe a small bucket of bereavement leave (2 weeks?) to be used in the following year, for funeral/logistics/if you need to meet with an estate lawyer/you need a day 3 months after in order to get paperwork notarized and together/what have you.

        1. shrinking violet*

          Many funerals are not even within three days. There is no way I could have gone in to work between my husband’s death and his funeral.

      2. GythaOgden*

        I lost my husband to cancer three years ago (he was 44, I was 39). My organisation gave me 5 official bereavement days and I took paid sick leave for two weeks (because as UK public sector we get quite generous conditions), but bereavement isn’t for grieving — it’s for immediate aftermath, paperwork, funeral etc. (It won’t cover working through probate, which takes a lot of time and you’re expected to do it on your own time, but it’s a chance to start things off by getting a death certificate etc.)

        Otherwise I wouldn’t have worked for over three years — I still dream about hubby, at 18 months my irrational brain still thought he’d left me and I kept begging him to come home, and even now I constantly tell myself I want to go home — that is, come home to him in the evening and be where I’ve been most happy.

        Realistically, no company can offer that amount of bereavement leave. Even sick pay at my organisation runs out after six months, and you’d definitely be discussing continued employment at that point in time. The pain is something that you have to process and deal with on your own time, and I applaud OP for trying, but 5 days is pretty standard for us in the UK.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        Bereavement leave is to attend the funeral not to get through the grief. There’s no timeline you can give for a person who lost a close family member to say they’ve grieved enough to be able to go back to work. It’s too variable. It’s not linear.

        You get 3 days as bereavement and then take what you need using PTO or sick leave (mental health) for the rest of your recovery.

        1. WellRed*

          But even just getting through the bare minimum of travel and arrangements can be longer than 3 days. I used up three days just waiting for my dad to die. I don’t expect it to cover the grief process but when you learn dad is in bad shape, you go. You don’t say, “ mom, call me” when it’s over. I did use PTO but I have generous PTO. Thank goodness!

    5. Finally happy at work!*

      I agree. 3 days bereavement is not enough for a parent/child/spouse/partner. My employers, at the time of my parents deaths (several years apart) gave me a week of paid bereavement. When we had to let our German shepherd cross the Rainbow Bridge due to cancer, my employer at the time gave me 3 paid bereavement days. I realize that would be an uncommon benefit but it meant so much to me.

      Otherwise, there are some great benefits listed!

      1. Mr. Shark*

        I agree that three days is not enough. Even if you are not traveling, you would have relatives coming in from all over the country, and you would need time to set up the funeral services and deal with the departed’s personal affects.

        My company just told me to take what time I needed and coordinate with my manager. I ended up taking about 7 days off, the first week was the day my father passed, and then that week was spent dealing with getting things ready. The next week I had family in town and the funeral. I could’ve used another day, since family was still around after the funeral.

        In terms of life and work, we shouldn’t be that constrained when something major happens. Work is just not that important compared to something like this. I understand having limits, but for parents, spouses, or children, that shouldn’t be limited to 3-5 days. It’s just not enough time to deal with everything that happens, and I’m sure with a spouse or child, you couldn’t even function at a job in less than a week.

    6. Llama Llama*

      My work has recently bumped op their bereavement leave from 3 days to 5 and to 4 weeks for child, spouse, or domestic partner. 3 days was honestly crap when you have to travel across the country for a funeral or actually have to do any of the logistics.

      1. Banana*

        Mine offers 3 with a limited list of relationships, but in action allows as much time as you need for any kind of loss, although outside the list and the 3 days it needs to be your own PTO. The only time I had someone without earned PTO to cover, we allowed her to go negative on PTO rather than take the time unpaid, but that was a case-by-case decision and not a policy.

    7. yarnowl*

      I agree on the bereavement leave. My current company offers 10 days of bereavement leave a year that’s like PTO; we’re not limited to who we can use it for or how much we can use at a time. So when I had a family member pass I was just able to request it in our system like PTO, let my manager know what was going on, and take the leave. I like that system a lot.

    8. Lab Boss*

      Jumping onto the bereavement leave comment: OP, how flexible is your policy on WHEN people take bereavement leave? When my grandmother died I was able to take 2 of my 3 allotted days to do funeral stuff, and then take the third day a month or so later to go help with cleaning her house. Our system wasn’t really set up like that (I had to make two different “dead grandmother” claims in our time tracking software) but my boss just approved it all.

      I’ve always understood that “bereavement leave” isn’t intended to last as long as the full grieving process (which can be effectively endless) but rather to give you time to tame the immediate emotional storm and handle death logistics. Death logistics don’t always happen in a tidy set of consecutive days.

      1. GythaOgden*

        We get compassionate leave for close relatives and special leave for funerals. Unfortunately the older members of my family have been leaving us, and so I’ve been to quite a few funerals in the last 7 years (beginning with my grandmother’s in 2015 and ending with my great aunt this February; my closest living elderly relatives are now my MIL and her sister). In most cases I’d hope flexibility was OK — we get 5 days bereavement/compassionate leave for close relatives but special leave is used for others (and it was what I applied for with my great aunt). It might not be classed as CL, but it probably would come under SL, personal days, whatever.

        Animals are more ambivalent to deal with, but that’s why having special leave/personal days is a good category — it leaves it as discretionary rather than forcing someone to list out specifics. (Sophie gets to take her cat to the vet to be put to sleep; Thomasina needs to sort through her stuff after a bad flood; and true story, my hubby had to go to A&E and have a very delicate matter attended to and it would have been tough to get into work before I had to turn round and come home again). It would be the way I’d categorise it if constructing a benefits system. Just take the day and let’s not quibble about the specifics.

    9. Jen*

      Yes. My company went from 3 days to 5 this year. Weeks later, my father passed, and I was grateful for the 5 days since it took a day of travel to go to/from, several days to help my mom plan, and then the actual services.

      And…because he’ll be buried in Arlington in some far off date (they’re backlogged), I’ll have to take another 3 day minimum PTO for that. I also dread my mother passing and having to deal with her estate.

      5 days is a minimum for close family. We do have less for distant family/friends.

    10. FormerProducer*

      Just chiming in to say yes, 3 days is not enough. I was at a different company when each parent died and got 2-3 weeks both times, and that was also not enough but at least I could travel and plan a funeral and probate the will in that time.

    11. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      When my grandfather died, I was working at a Jewish college, and because of the tradition of sitting shiva, the bereavement leave was so generous and humane. I got a full week off to go to the funeral, visit with family, and support my mom. And that was a grandparent, not even a child or parent.
      Give people a week, OP. It’s not like people are going to be needing to take this leave all the time (I hope!), so that extra two days is a comparatively little thing for the company but hugely important for the people who end up needing bereavement leave. A week lets them sort the logistics *and* possibly have a couple days to sit at home and cry, rather than having to go back to work the day after the funeral when they haven’t had time to even breath.

  6. An Admin*

    I’ve always liked the idea of a health stipend/benefit – a set amount each month that employees can use for gym memberships or home gym equipment or activity watches, meal delivery services like Freshly or Hello Fresh, therapy(mental or physical or both). Something that has a broad list of what it can be used for so it’s inclusive of all abilities. I think something like that shows that an employer knows that an employees day extends beyond the work day and your personal health and well-being is important.

      1. louvella*

        My organization offers a HRA but it’s just for medical expenses that go toward your deductible, not flexible things like gym memberships. (No clue if that varies between HRAs, this is the only time I’ve had one). I have never had an opportunity to use it because I’ve only had routine medical care since working here and it doesn’t reimburse for copays. But our deductible is $2500 and we have a $2500 HRA, so I believe if I was say, hospitalized, it wouldn’t have as much of a financial impact. (But someone correct me if I’m wrong about everything, I have not paid much attention to the benefit since I haven’t had to use it!)

        1. BPT*

          I also have an HRA and love it. Our deductible is $3500, but we only pay the first $750, and then the HRA comes in and pays the rest of the deductible for the year. (I mean, fully covered would be great, but still better than having to pay $3500 out of pocket).

      2. Former Recruiter, Current HR Generalist*

        A Lifestyle Spending and Wellness Account (LSWA) would probably be best for that!

    1. Another Admin*

      Yup! I get $500 at my job and my husband gets a generous $1500!!! We use it for our Costco membership, Blue Apron boxes, my husband can use his to buy guitars (I can’t), and we’ve bought hiking shoes in the past, too! It’s an amazing benefit!!

    2. Mm*

      I also really like this as a “use it or lose it benefit.” A previous company had this and it encouraged me to spend $150 on some very, very nice walking shoes. Honestly life changing.

      I think there are a surprising number of life changing tweaks that exist for an affordable amount – ergonomic mouse, stand/sit desk, gym membership. Being the company that helps someone afford those inspires a lot of loyalty.

    3. Spicy Tuna*

      I worked for an employer that gave everyone a set amount of money to be used for health care. You *had* to opt into one of the insurance options they offered, but if you were only insuring yourself, there was quite a bit of money left over that could be used for anything, not just health related. The amount was quite generous, so unless someone was insuring a LOT of dependents on the super high end plan, there was typically at least some money left over.

    4. Yorick*

      My husband’s job has this, it’s a pretty generous annual amount for memberships, equipment, events, etc.

    5. Education Mike*

      My bff has this and they can use it for anything “self care” with the Cosmo definition of self care: manicures, facials, massages, coloring books, tea, whatever.

      It’s definitely a luxury budget wise but I didn’t realize until I got a massage for the first time how helpful it was for my back. And facials do way more for my skin then tons of trips to the dermatologist ever did.

    6. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      A lot of these are taxable benefits, which is just the same as receiving cash. It doesn’t make sense for an organization to increase their administrative burden to help you spend your normal pay. Some of these might make sense in the way of group discounts, but the purchase still should come from the employee.

      Though, do check with your health plan. Some insurance carriers will cover a portion of monthly gym fees and fitness trackers, especially if you have a physician order that spells out why it’s important you have access.

      An EPA is a tax-free benefit that could be provided and it is common to include mental health services.

    7. JustaTech*

      My husband’s company has this and he’s used it to buy (part of) a bike and to pay (part) of his entry fee for an Ironman race.
      Other folks use it for gyms, home gym equipment, ebikes, all kinds of stuff. I don’t know if we could use it for Hello Fresh, but it’s worth looking into!

    1. Em*

      Yep! Agree. My husbands work offers 20% stipend and it makes a huge difference. We are able to choose a much high quality of care, which really puts our mind at ease.

    2. Betty*

      +1. Also any kind of support for ad-hoc or emergency care. E.g., if local schools take a holiday for Presidents’ Day but your office is open, that’s tough for single parent/dual career families; lots of families have been dealing with “daycare is shut down for a week for a COVID outbreak starting tomorrow” emergencies.

      Also, keeping in mind that not all caregivers are parents, and being inclusive of any kinds of primary caregiver roles (e.g., aunts/uncles/grandparents/older siblings may be guardians and primary caregivers in some families)

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Yes there are several companies out there that offer backup childcare benefits. It doesn’t offer sick care (and not sure if they’d cover something like a daycare closing due to Covid outbreak if your child is potentially exposed but not sick) but does cover emergent and normal school closings.

      2. Been There*

        My employer offers childcare for sick children. Someone will come to your house to watch your kid, and you can call them pretty last minute.

        1. Orsoneko*

          We have this benefit through my husband’s employer, capped at something like 100 hours/year. I wasn’t really expecting to use it, but it ended up being a godsend this week when our five-month-old was too sick for daycare.

        1. lilsheba*

          Yes on site childcare would solve everything, literally. It would allow people to work and not miss any. This really needs to be a benefit everywhere.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            PLUS it could create a boom in the supply of childcare workers. I worked at a daycare when I was in high school and while the low pay didn’t matter so much back then, wages are unsustainable for hiring & retaining high-quality workers. Partially decentralizing daycare out of centers and into individual corporate offices would create a more competitive market as well as more job openings.

          2. This Old House*

            I mean, not really? My kids went to onsite daycare – it still cost an arm and a leg, it still closed for COVID exposures, water main breaks, power outages (and they have stricter standards than general workplace safety, I guess, so they’d often close for that infrastructure stuff while the office was still open to wait and see how long it took to resolve). I think it had all the issues of off-site daycare except the commute. Not that I didn’t love it, but it’s a convenience, not a panacea.

          3. Empress Matilda*

            I don’t think it does, actually. For one thing, there’s the commute – at the time my kids were in day care, I was commuting an hour or more each way on a crowded public transit vehicle. That’s bad enough when you only have to look out for yourself and your stuff, but when you’re also hauling a kid and a stroller and all their stuff, it’s an absolute nightmare. Then if the kid gets hungry and starts to scream on the way home, or there’s a transit delay that snafus everything up?

            Also, if I ever wanted to take a day off work and still needed my kids in care for some reason, I wouldn’t want to go all the way to the office to make that happen. Especially if I’m sick, or if the commute is very long – the benefit of having the care would be cancelled out by the logistics of getting the kids there and back.

            And finally, if I were to change jobs, would that mean losing my daycare spot? Wait lists for daycare were 6+ months when my kids were younger, and very few people have that much lead time when it comes to changing jobs.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favour of subsidized child care! I firmly believe it’s a public good, not an individual convenience. But unfortunately, onsite day care isn’t as equitable as it might seem at first – there are lots of families who might need care, who wouldn’t be able to access it in this way.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Same. Our work finally, finally, finally started offering a $2000 monthly stipend for child/elder care which is something like 50% of the median cost of day care for 0-5 in our area and about 30% for home health care. We are still trying to figure out a sustainable way to do onsite care. We are looking into partnering with a university that has an early childhood development program and make it part of a training program that we could open up to the communities we serve, but it is early days yet.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Also childless by choice, also agree this is the most important “stretch” benefit a company can offer. The childcare professionals should be employees with a decent salary and benefits, too.

      3. WantonSeedStitch*

        This. It means that we parents are better able to keep the same hours and do the same amount of work as our childless coworkers.

    3. Massive Dynamic*

      And extreme flexibility when a child is sick. There is nowhere to send a sick kid. They stay home, with their parents/guardians who may or may not be able to work as well during that time.

    4. anonymouse*

      I agree but would change this to dependent care so it’s more encompassing. I’m childless because I’ll be the sole caregiver for my mom once her medical conditions progress past the no return phase.

  7. Big Bird*

    Consider adding automatic enrollment to your 401(k)–meaning that everyone automatically contributes to the plan unless they specifically opt out. (Many plans start out at 3% of pay but 6% of pay is becoming more common.) AE is considered a best practice nowadays. There is also auto-escalation, meaning that every year the contribution goes up by an additional percent. And if your plan meets certain rules employees can withdraw their contributions if they change their mind in the first 30-90 days.

    1. UK benefits*

      In the UK by law if you’re over I think it’s 21 or 22, you have to automatically be enrolled into the pension plan and the minimum contribution is 3% employee, 5% employer (so 8% total). It saves people the hassle of having to remember to enrol when they join, but people can specifically opt out if they want to.

    2. High Score!*

      A larger match. I have friends with a 10% 401k contribution. So whether they participate or not, they get 10% of their salary put into a 401k account. This is in addition to a competitive salary.

    3. BethRA*

      I understand how that would increase participation, but how does defaulting to having part of someone’s pay check divert to a 401k plan make benefits more equitable or inclusive?

      Safe Harbor plans with an automatic employer contribution I get. But I’m not sure I’d have been happy having to take extra steps to reduce what came out of my pay back when I was just scraping by.

      1. RG2*

        There’s a ton of behavioral economics research that people want to set up contributions but don’t get around to it because… people. So companies saying “this is the default for your paycheck and here’s the deadline to tell us if you want something different to happen” hugely increases participation in retirement savings without increasing dissatisfaction.

        1. BethRA*

          Like I said, I get that/how it increases participation. But OP is asking for ways to make their benefits more equitable and inclusive – and I’m asking how trying to push more people into your 401k plan does that.

          1. BethRA*

            And to clarify, I’m not saying it’s a bad idea – I”m asking if/how it addresses those issues. Because I know I might be missing something.

            1. BubbleTea*

              Women have far less saved for retirement than men, and that gap is compounded by ethnicity. People from low income backgrounds are disproportionately affected by a lack of savings for later life, being less likely to have conveniently timed inheritances. There are lots of ways in which retirement savings slightly redresses some of the inequities that exist.

          2. Snow Globe*

            Broadly speaking, people who grew up in lower income households are a lot less likely to have been given sound financial education from their parents, which would include emphasizing how important it is to start saving early for retirement, due to compounding effect. So those people may not understand the importance of signing up for the 401k as early as they can. But most will be happy to pay in if it is automatic.

            1. Aitch Arr*

              What Snow Globe said.

              Especially if there is a match, non-participants are throwing away free money.

              1. JustSomeone*

                I hope this doesn’t come across as hostile, but I have to say I really hate that phrase. It’s so often used to denigrate people in poverty—if those fools would just stop throwing away money, they’d be financially successful/stable. This is just yet another way that it’s expensive to be poor. If you can’t afford to defer any portion of your salary, it doesn’t matter how amazing the “free money” match is.

                1. Aitch Arr*

                  The ‘free money’ phrase?

                  I think it’s accurate when discussing a match, though your point is well-taken that if one can’t afford a 401k contribution of any sort, the match is a moot point.

                2. The Real Fran Fine*

                  If you can’t afford to defer any portion of your salary, it doesn’t matter how amazing the “free money” match is.

                  Thank you for saying this. The tone deafness in this thread was astounding. Many people make minimum wage or damn near close to it. How in the world
                  are they putting away money they don’t have?

                  I experienced this myself early in my career. In fact, I didn’t start regularly putting money away into a 401K until I was in my early 30s, and I had a mother who worked and had a portion of her paycheck automatically deferred to her company’s retirement plan, so I understood the importance – I just wasn’t making any money and I had student loans out the ass. I needed every single cent from my paycheck upfront at that point in my life, or I would have ended up homeless. One of the companies I worked for had the audacity to do the auto-enroll unless you opt-out thing, and didn’t tell me when I started, so after six months I got a pretty nasty surprise when my check was shorted $40. That may not seem like a lot, but it is when you’re barely making it and every dollar is already accounted for in rent, utilities, food, and bills.

                  Just say no to auto-enrollments, folks.

      2. Hen in a Windstorm*

        There’s research on opt-in versus opt-out of retirement plans. Opt-out is better in every way for the *employee*.

        I’d say the number one reason I hear people give for not contributing is that they really don’t get the math – I’m pretty smart, and I didn’t get the math in theory, and I waited way longer than I should have to start contributing. I had to actually calculate it with an online calculator to see how little effect it would have on my take-home pay. And then I kicked myself for not starting sooner. Opt-out avoids all that.

        Also, pretty sure the OP’s list above indicates they are *giving* 3%, so it would not be a deduction, it would be a bonus.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      My org does an automatic enrollment, but it’s 1% for mandatory contribution, and they match 100% up to the max. I think 3% mandatory seems high to me (especially for young entry level workers) even though I voluntarily contribute more than that. I’d be unhappy if it was mandatory 6%.

      1. Cj*

        but it’s not really mandatory, just automatic enrollment. you have to take the extra step to opt out instead of opt-in, but that doesn’t mean it’s mandatory.

      2. KRM*

        But a large number of places allow you to contribute pre-tax, so the effect on your pay is not the full amount. It would help to not only have opt-out, but also calculators that show the actual effect on your take home pay. That way if you’re not sure you can afford 3%, you can do the real math and see what the net actually is–it won’t be perfect, but it’ll be a better reflection of reality than saying “oh I can’t afford to miss 3% of my pay”. This can allow for more informed decision making.

    5. JSPA*

      i was coming to say the opposite- – don’t remember the details, but I know we ran into a circumstance where being automatically in in a 401(k) messed with someone’s other retirement plan or some other set of benefits. couldn’t tell you if it was just an IRA vs 401(k) or something more unusual (trust, survivor benefits, support for disabled kid, something having to do with international taxes????). As wonderful as it normally is to get stuff for nothing, it’s still essential to have an opt out procedure, just in case it’s not good for someone.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Automatic enrollment doesn’t preclude opting out. Also, your point seems to be that since 1 person was inconvenienced this 1 time, somehow that’s an argument against a benefit for everyone else?

        And just so nobody else gets confused by this, IRA and 401k/403b contributions have separate limits, so it could not have been that.

        1. Willow*

          If you have an employer sponsored retirement plan you can’t contribute to a traditional IRA and deduct the contribution, and there are income limits governing whether you can contribute to a Roth IRA.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            Not many restrictions for a Roth IRA — restrictions/reductions don’t kick in until you reach a modified AGI of $129,000 (single) or $204,000 (married filing jointly).

            You can NEVER deduct a Roth IRA contribution – BUT anything that Roth IRA earns going forward through the years, isn’t taxable, even when you start taking it (after 59 1/2, I believe). And you don’t have mandatory withdrawals, as you do with 401Ks or Traditional IRAs.

      2. Aitch Arr*

        It was likely that an employee started a new job after the first payroll of the year, so they had contributed to a 401(k) elsewhere and then didn’t take that contribution into account at the new employer. They therefore went over the IRS max.

        That’s on the employee, frankly.

    6. NW Mossy*

      Retirement plan pro here. I can almost guarantee you that your retirement plan vendors will be thrilled to hear that an employer’s interested in automatic enrollment. Most want to upsell you on this already because it increases the overall assets of the plan, which means more $$$ in their pockets from asset-based fees. But here’s some advice they may not be as forthcoming about:

      – Automatic enrollment/escalation is a data-driven process. It’s so very critical to make sure you’ve got good quality data about your employees and payroll, because any mistakes you have in that data will compound themselves in automatic enrollment. This is especially true if your business has a lot of employees and/or a high-turnover workforce, because more data = more opportunities for it to be bad in some way.

      – If you’re considering automatic enrollment because you have low participation today, consider pairing it with other choices that play nicely with a low-engagement workforce. Pick a Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA) that will take in participant dollars without them having to choose their own investments. Use automatic rollover provisions that will allow you to transfer small accounts to an IRA provider after the employee leaves your organization. Deliver documents electronically so that you don’t have to chase down a new address every time someone moves.

      – Know your obligations. Be aware of what your retirement plan vendors do and do not do for you (hint: read your service agreements!). Almost every single automatic enrollment disaster I’ve seen got to be that bad in least in part because the employer thought “oh, my vendor handles that,” and thereby ignored a responsibility. If you don’t think your organization is up to the responsibilities of automatic enrollment, wait until you are.

      – If you add this to your plan, give yourself a long runway between deciding to do it and the go-live date. 6 months is ideal; deciding today, to do it for January 1 2023 is not. You need time to prepare your payroll department, your payroll vendor, your employees, and everyone else involved. Rushing this leads to mistakes and misunderstandings.

      1. Libratrix*

        I think this is all great, and I would add to make sure you have low cost investment vehicles available.

    7. Bridget*

      Only support doing this if there’s a company match. My company has an opt-out only 401k but doesn’t do any matching, so it wasn’t really worth it to me. Plus I wasn’t eligible until I had been here for a year, and being a military spouse I’ll be leaving in another year, so by the time I got everything set up it would have only been 10 months of contributions. Not worth it.

      Now, if I had been eligible when I started, there was a company match, and I would be 100% vested immediately in the matched funds, then I would have absolutely taken it.

      1. mlem*

        Mine did the “opt-out, no match” plan, which meant I had to create an account with Prudential just to say “no, I hate all your plans and will stick with my pre-existing one”. There was zero benefit to me but plenty for Prudential’s marketing arm — all my personal data for free! Not a fan.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      Right! Lol. My current company has pretty good benefits, don’t get me wrong, but not anything this extensive. This list is amazing.

  8. BritSouthAfricanAmericanHybrid*

    I am not sure how feasible this is, but three days bereavement leave is not enough for those people who have relatives who live in another country. When my father passed away, I had to fly to the UK. I took all my (meagre) vacation to fly there, help with the funeral arrangements, and help my mother afterwards. Although I do not expect a company to give its people 2 weeks bereavement leave, on top of all the other leave they offer, 5 days or even 7 days would have helped me so much.

    1. Sarah*

      My employer allows 3 additional bereavement days if you have to travel more than a certain distance for the funeral. Really helpful when you have family that lives far away.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        My employer offers an extra day on each end for travel out of state, and another day on either end on top of that for international travel.

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      This is what I was going to say. I was lucky enough to get a week of paid bereavement when my mom passed away.

      1. Anonym*

        I noted this above as well – my company offers a week bereavement, which is really important not only for grieving but dealing with the logistics.

        OP, please consider increasing the offering in this category! You’re actually a little low here.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Hear, hear! I got three days for my dad and it was only sort of enough because he died late Thursday night and so my 3 days had the weekend added in the middle of them. And even so, it was only barely enough for the logistics (which there was very little of, as we are a small family and dad was on SSI and didn’t leave any inheritance). I kind of stuck the whole grieving process in the back pocket while dealing with things like haggling with the funeral home and getting his accounts in order. That probably wasn’t healthy for me in the long run! Definitely can use more for immediate family.

    3. WellRed*

      Yes. I commented above. My first three days of leave was supporting mom, visiting dad and making the decision to not continue measures. Then he died and we had to make arrangements and plans and all that for out of state. Thank fully my company is more generous.

    4. Eliot Waugh*

      You could have 3 days for any human, but extend that (10 days, non-continuous?) when the employee is responsible for any funeral arrangements or managing the estate of the deceased.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I like this solution.

        It took me three days to go to my grandpa’s funeral (I drove a thousand miles in those three days, and since I’m British that’s equivalent to about ten thousand miles US) and all I had to do was show up.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        yes. For parents, children, siblings and spouses, I think 7 -10 days is reasonable. Also, a lot of times with direct relatives, there’s some time before the death that could eat up time, if the person is already in bad shape and then passes away. So I understand the need not to give away too much time for those people that may take advantage of it, but really, for my father’s passing, I had a week in which he was in the hospital, and I was lucky enough to work half-days so I could be with him.

        And then once he passed, I ended up having 7 days off, when I really could’ve used 10 days to deal with everything, especially since it was in a different state.

        Thankfully, my company was really good about it and just let me take what I needed. I did come back on day 8, but I should’ve probably taken another day at least.

        But I would fight for 3 days for less immediate relatives and 7-10 days for children, siblings, spouses and parents.

      3. A*

        Or have to travel for the memorial service. At least in my area the majority of individuals are ‘transplants’, it’s not common for people to stay in the same region they were born and raised. When I had an immediate family member pass away a few years ago, I was not responsible for the estate or planning the service – but I had to fly cross country for the ceremony mid week. Two of the three days were almost entirely lost to travel… so I had just enough time to attend the ceremony and show my face at the reception before having to drive back to a hotel near the airport a few hours away.

    5. That one over there*

      It’s hard to imagine going back to work 3 days after the lose of a spouse, partner, child, sibling or other close person in an employees life.

      I had a friend that had to go on extended leave of absence after the death of her husband. She was eventually fired. I understand the company is a business that needs to function. But Jesus she lost her life partner and is expected to return ready to go? I don’t think so.

      1. WellRed*

        I can’t imagine going back to work quickly. This is also why life insurance is so important. I keep shouting this from the rooftop. OP, I assume you offer life insurance?

      2. Education Mike*

        This is horrible. My best friend lost her brother and took 2 months off. The company gave her a bonus when she came back because they knew she had covered the funeral expenses.

        It wasn’t the best job but she stayed for ages because they treated her so well.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          I understand that concept, but really, lousing a spouse or a child, how could you expect someone to be able to focus on work. I know sometimes people want to work because it takes their mind off of their loss. But I don’t think asking for 7-10 days is unreasonable in the instance of more immediate family.

          Work is work. Losing someone important to you is so much more important than any work you could be doing. Your employer should have some compassion. Things will still get done when you’re gone, and the world won’t end if you take a few more days than the three days needed to make arrangements.

        2. Catwhisperer*

          Lol have fun trying to handle all the logistics in 3 days when you’re the sole beneficiary and live in a completely different country. I’m guessing you’ve never been in that situation, otherwise you’d have a bit more compassion.

    6. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

      On top of potential travel for funeral arrangements, there are other cultural expectations sometimes. This is Canadian First Nation perspective (i’m sure not all of them have the same practices, but some do), but may apply to some US indigenous peoples too. They are expected to participate in community events for deaths in their community. So if you are a well respected member of the community, you may be asked to perform a specific role, which can take a few days, multiple times a year. And it doesn’t have to be a close relative at all. With opioid crisis and other systemic issues that indigenous communities face, their death rates are … well… kinda high.

    7. anonymouse*

      If it’s not possible to offer more bereavement leave maybe at least make the plan a little more flexible? It won’t protect against a bad manager but it might give a good manager room to say if you need to do x, y, or z it’s not against our policies so that’s okay.

    8. Education Mike*

      I think regardless of travel, five or seven days should be given for someone who has a really close person if at all possible.

      My mom is sick, we live very close and I won’t have to do much planning, but I’m not going to be doing expense reports Friday if she dies Monday. The thought is darkly comical.

      I would also suggest flexibility with giving time off to support others. When my best friend lost a family member, she had no partner, so I did most of the stuff a spouse would do, including sleeping in her bed, going to an out of state funeral, etc.

      There is absolutely no world in which I would’ve left her to deal with that herself. I was nervous to try to explain to my boss why I needed these four days off urgently (travel, funeral, wake) and I was so incredibly thankful when my boss was completely understanding, and asked no questions (aside from how I was doing).

      On average, people are getting married later and later, and having kids later or not at all. For millennials and younger, LGBTQ folks, etc it’s so common that close friends play a role that people in more traditional family structures might imagine would be played by a spouse. I’m forever grateful to that boss who got that I was my best friends person, and I needed to do anything a spouse or partner would do.

      Also, in terms of offering additional days off for family members, death or allowing days off for a friends family members death I feel like this is the kind of thing that in theory sounds risky to some people, but rarely gets abused. People in the US hardly take their vacation time. If you don’t trust your employees not to invent funerals, you have bigger fish to fry.

    9. random person*

      It’s not even enough within the US.

      When my mom died, the company I worked for at the time gave me 4 or 5 days off (can’t remember exactly now), and that was… okay. My dad wasn’t really able to handle much himself, so the time included meeting with their lawyer, visiting and making a lot of phone calls to financial institutions, going through some of my mom’s things, and going to pick up copies of the death certificate, in addition to traveling there and back.

      I’m actually not sure what my current company offers (pretty new to this job) but if it’s only 3 days when my dad dies – that won’t cut it. It takes a day of travel to get to his location, so that would wipe out two thirds of that leave right there.

    10. Catwhisperer*

      +1, my company actually did give me 2 weeks bereavement leave when my mother passed in another country and it was barely enough for me to fly in and take care of all the logistics, especially since I’m an only child and she was divorced. I ended up taking a third week once I got back just to process, because I was so busy while I was gone that I just didn’t have the time. As a result of my company’s generosity, I came back to work focused enough to do my job at my regular capabilities.

    11. mdv*

      I’m a bit late to this thread, but in case someone still sees it: My employer allowed me to use an unlimited amount of vacation time when planning international trips for funerals, including my Oma (in Germany) and my father (who we took to bury in Germany from the US).

      If it doesn’t hurt your company, allowing complete flexibility for someone to deal with all that needs to be dealt with without dinging their annual leave balance … would be the absolute best case scenario. Especially if the person in question is the executor of the estate. The only way I was able to manage that for my dad was with the amazing amount of vacation time I had available to me as a state employee with a significant roll-over balance.

    1. Rapunzel*

      came here to ask this! my employer offers EAP coverage for the employee, household members, and dependents

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      My company’s EAP is super extensive and offers things like legal advice (wills, power of attorney, etc), caregiving resource referrals, pet insurance, 3 different telemedicine options, etc etc. SO many things, it’s really incredible.

    3. Divergent*

      Please include coverage for general mental health spending over and above an EAP. I’m autistic, and my EAP is not set up to give me the specific kind of assistance I need, though it is set up to help plenty of more common issues like addictions, stress for neurotypicals, and “oh no my kid is autistic how do I cope”.

      The following would be super helpful to me:
      -cover a mental health provider of the employee’s choice, so for instance an autistic person or a nonmonogamous person isn’t forced to seek counseling from someone with no experience on those topics because of the network, or someone who needs a particular modality of counselor or a prescribing doc can access those.

      -cover ADHD and autism assessments

      -my current workplace has a “you don’t even need to log time off if you have a Dr’s appointment less than 2 hours and there’s no limit to it” and I have been using those for counseling, it has been *very helpful*

      1. HigherEdAdmin*

        Seconded! My employer has extremely generous benefits, but it doesn’t cover adult ADHD or autism diagnoses (and our insurance doesn’t either). In fact, they’re rolling out a service for teens and kids that need help with ADHD and autism coaching, but it completes leaves out the adults.

      1. ferrina*

        This is tough, because some mental health professionals won’t take insurance because of the amount of hoops they need to jump through to get reimbursed. Often they’ll have you pay up front, then you’ll get reimbursed from your insurance company.
        It would be nice if the EAP could help with those hoops.

    4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Yes. EAP, and preferably one where you can also use the EAP session for both therapy or a med consult. Our EAP covered 6 free sessions, two of which can be used with a psychiatrist to talk about medication (you can use all 6 for therapy) It saved me because my GP doctor didn’t have openings for months, but I was able to get an appointment through my EAP the next week.

  9. CheesePlease*

    – Paid parental leave if it’s not already a benefit (I assume since you are thinking of making benefits better, you probably already have it but worth mentioning)

    – allowing employees to flex hours or use sick time for doctors appointments instead of PTO (especially at least every 6mo for dental, annual physical and bloodwork)

    – 1-2 paid volunteer days (employees could provide documentation of their volunteer activity if needed). I would totally do this to volunteer at my local polling place on election day. I think it’s good way to give back to the community unofficially.

    1. Eric*

      And make sure the parental leave is inclusive of all paths to parenthood (adoption, surrogacy, single parents, etc)

      1. Quinalla*

        And I recommend making the parental leave equal for either parent – whether birthing/primary or non-birthing/secondary and make sure to make the language inclusive – birthing/primary (typically for adoption) parent instead of mother, non-birthing/secondary parent instead of father.

        Equalizing this helps to normalize all parental leave to help remove the stigma that still exists against women mostly that they are going to take all that maternity leave so maybe hire/promote that dude instead.

          1. CheesePlease*

            I thought that was simply implied by stating “parental leave” and not “maternity leave” lol silly progressive me

            1. Person from the Resume*

              But the birthing parent gets some “extra” days for their medical recovery from birth. The non-gestational parent doesn’t need days to recover from birth but they deserve the same number of days to bond with the child.

              1. CheesePlease*

                Personally, as a birthing mother, I’m much more in favor of a very broad 10 paid weeks for any employee who becomes a parent. Having my husband home with me and baby for more than 2 weeks would also help my healing process!

                Then, if a birthing parent wants to claim 6-8 weeks of short-term disability at the reduced pay rate, they can do so *in addition* to the paid leave. On top of that, all parents should be eligible for FMLA for 12 weeks for care / bonding

              2. Sara H*

                As someone who has given birth twice I actually prefer that my partner have the same leave as me. It allows the partner to contribute equally to care of the child and gives me time to get much needed rest. Otherwise you are caring for a newborn yourself while recovering physically. Plus when women take longer leaves than men it created inequities within the workforce.

                1. Mr. Shark*

                  I’m not a parent, but I have no problem with parents, the mother and the partner, getting 8 weeks of paid leave. They should be with their new child!

        1. Ditto*

          Or just make it a blanket every parent gets X amount of leave.

          My organization uses the primary/secondary distinction and the administration of it is awful. Primary/secondary only applies if both parents work for the organization. What we see in reality is that fathers whose spouse work elsewhere or stay home get 8 weeks of leave. Fathers whose spouse work there as well get 4 weeks of leave. That is not equitable at all.

          1. CheesePlease*

            This is sadly somewhat in line with FMLA laws where if partners work for the same company, the 12 weeks of eligibility are shared between them.

      2. Nowwhat465*

        This! My office was extremely progressive with parental leave except the way the leave policy was worded was extremely non-inclusive, to the point that non-birthing mothers/non-binary parents only got 6 weeks of unpaid leave while birth mothers and fathers (regardless of biological relation) got 8-12 weeks paid.

        During a survey a few years ago I was asked if I would ever consider leaving and I cited this policy as to why. Low and behold, the language was updated within a week to be gender inclusive and allow similar times off for non-birthing parents.

        1. Gan Ainm*

          Not sure I follow the issue here, can you explain? it’s pretty normal for the mother to get medical leave for the physical recovery from actually giving birth/surgery – this is often a few weeks on top of the parental leave for bonding and childcare, which any parent could get. It sounds like this is the set up your org had?

          1. one L lana*

            It’s normal in the US to do it this way because that’s how it’s always been done — pregnancy/labor recovery is seen as a medical issue (that’s why short-term disability is often used to cover leave).

            But companies are increasingly rethinking this and making parental leave about bonding, adjustment to being a family, etc. My company does 16 weeks of paid leave for anyone who becomes a parent, period. Very much the standard among more inclusive companies.

            OP, consider having an explicit policy for time off around pregnancy loss as well.

            1. Gan Ainm*

              I’d argue giving leave specifically for medical recovery, with separate bonding leave, is in fact the correct way to do it, to do otherwise disregards very physical process women go through to give birth. We already vastly underestimate Women’s healthcare needs, I don’t think we want to compound that by eliminating medical leave for one if the most significant healthcare experiences a human can have.

          2. Zephy*

            I might be reading it wrong but I think the problem is that the wording of the policy granted the extra medical recovery time to people who could not possibly need it, i.e., “birth fathers” (which I’m interpreting to mean AMAB individuals with spouses who gave birth). People who give birth absolutely need and deserve time to recover from that experience, but that does not apply to, if I may be crass for a moment, the sperm donor in this situation. Either everyone gets 8-12 weeks or only the actual person who actually built and expelled a whole-assed baby gets the “extra” 4-6 weeks, otherwise the policy is not fair.

            1. Zephy*

              My kingdom for an edit button.

              “Recovery from pregnancy” leave should be a separate thing from “family/parental” leave, because those are two separate Major Life Events. Calling it that would also cover pregnancy loss (I agree, that should also be considered), as well as people who give birth but then don’t need time after they’ve physically recovered to figure out how to live with a baby (surrogates and people who choose to carry to term and then place the child for adoption).

            2. Lellow*

              The part of my birthing recovery during which my wife wasn’t working and could spend that time caring for me and our infant was extremely beneficial to me, I have to say! Equal leave for both parents, pls.

          3. Nowwhat465*

            The wording was specific to maternity leave (birthing mothers only), and then paternity leave for fathers. Maternity leave was 12 weeks (including short term disability); paternal (specifically for fathers) was 8 weeks. They did not have anything for mothers who did not give birth.

            Initially when I joined the company and asked about it, the HR Officer assigned to me informed me they do not offer leave for adoptive parents outside of FMLA. And that approval could take weeks. So a couple years later as they tried to change the culture, I answered that survey honestly. I would likely leave when it came time to start my family as there is no coverage for me.

            Our new HR Director immediately updated the language. Turns out, I would be covered but the employee manual had such traditional definitions of parents, that for many years we were excluded.

        2. DataSci*

          I would have been over the moon for six weeks for non-birthing parents! When we adopted our son I was offered TWO WEEKS.

    2. JustKnope*

      For parental leave, I really like how my employer does it. The person who gives birth gets 8 weeks of leave, and then any person who adds a child to their family (through birth, adoption, or fostering) can take 10 weeks of parental leave, 100% paid. So when I give birth next year I’ll get 18 weeks off, and if my partner worked for the company he would get 10 weeks off. The other perk of how they organize it is that the leave does NOT have to be consecutive. So I know many couples who both work here who stagger their weeks off. One woman I know even calculated how many days it would take her to have every Friday off for the rest of the year after her mat leave, and then came back exactly that early so she could have 4 day work weeks. The flexibility is key.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I am so torn on this because if the birth-giver gets more leave it still creates an environment where primarily women are seen as more of a liability that they’ll get pregnant and take too much time off and also where primarily mothers become the default caregiver because they spend more time with their newborns than fathers. (I understand not all birth-givers are women, but that doesn’t stop middle managers from hesitating to add late 20s women to their staff )

        On the other hand I’ve given birth 3x and would love for folks to acknowledge that I needed leave for healing myself from a medical event not just to snuggle my baby.

        1. Lellow*

          But wouldn’t you want your partner to also be on leave during that time so they can care for you? I certainly wanted that!

        2. Sara H*

          I agree with all of this. Though will add having my partner home with me during my leaved helped my physical recovery. He wasn’t just cuddling a baby, he was helping his wife recover from major physical trauma. So I think the physical impact can still be addressed when considering leave for non-birthing people, and maybe even more widely acknowledged in our society if man participate more in post-partum care.

      2. sara*

        afaik (I’m an auntie not a parent) this is vaguely similar to the logic in Canada. Birthing parent gets leave to cover their medical needs of having given birth. Any parent then gets leave to cover being a new parent.

        1. KGD*

          Yes, that’s how it works in Canada – I think 4 months for “pregnancy leave” and an additional 8 or 14 months for parental leave, where you get the same amount of money from EI regardless of which option you choose. One thing I love that they recently added was an additional 6 weeks of use-it-or-lose it time for the non-birthing parent, specifically to encourage equity within relationships. My husband took this time with our second and not our first, and it made a massive difference in our division of labour in the infant stage.

    3. kristinyc*

      For parental leave – after having given birth, I believe that the person who gives birth should have a set amount of weeks (at least the minimum 6-8 weeks short term disability covers), and then ALL parents should get whatever the company deems as parental leave (on top of the “recovery from childbirth” time). At my last job, everyone got 12 weeks, with 4-8 weeks paid at 60% (depending on your tenure at the company). The difference was men/non-birthing parents had that time paid by the company, and birthing parents had it paid by STD insurance. It made me feel like the company was more willing to invest in time off for the dads/non-birthing parents than the ones who went through the physical trauma of pregnancy/childbirth.

      1. parental leave*

        I also would recommend having a set amount of parental leave and giving parents flexible time to use it. My company gave us 12 weeks of parental leave that could be taken at any point within a year after adding a child to your family. This meant that I could take leave after my wife was back to work.

        Second everyone’s comments about giving parental leave to all parents irrespective of how they became parents.

      2. DataSci*

        Please do not assume all families include a person who gave birth. Policies that do, and that the birthing parent will take most of the infant childcare duties, place adoptive parents in a really tough place.

        1. CheesePlease*

          Yeah I’m much more in favor of a very broad 10 paid weeks for any employee who becomes a parent. If a birthing parent wants to claim 6-8 weeks of short-term disability at the reduced pay rate, they can do so. On top of that, all parents should be eligible for FMLA for 12 weeks for care / bonding

        2. Mr. Shark*

          I can see that new parents should have a specific amount of leave, but the birthing parent would have additional leave just to help heal through the birthing process. I think that makes sense.

    4. Ashley*

      On the flex hours, don’t be like the employer this morning for docking PTO and letting people adjust their schedule as much as reasonable.

    5. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Seconding (or probably 500thing, I haven’t read all the comments yet) the volunteer leave and wellness leave. The org I work for has both (12 hours of each a year), and they are one of my favorite things about our benefits.

    1. CatCat*

      This is a great suggestion. I worked at a place that did pre-tax parking, subsidized mass transit passes, and even a bike commuter stipend (small, but certainly helpful to cover some of the costs of wear and tear on a commuter bike).

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I live in a very bike-friendly city and have many colleagues who commute by bike. We have secure bike parking and regular free bike repair clinics. There are also showers on every floor of the building.

        Subsidised transit passes and discounted parking would also be useful for those who commute in other ways.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Around a large metro area like Los Angeles, San Francisco, NY, Dallas, DC, etc, that would be minimum expected. It would also be nice if the company can do the research and advertise any city/county/state programs that help commuters. I’m basing this on living in Los Angeles, but there are usually some sort of incentive programs in large metro areas for using public transport, bike, or car/van pooling. Maybe make parking free for carpooling.

      Along the line of commuting, if the company owns their own lots, start adding charging stations for EVs.

    3. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Oh, yeah, my last nonprofit job had this. If you were a transit commuter, you got those benefits, if you drove, you got parking benefits at a lot across the street.

    4. Willow Sunstar*

      For sure, especially if the company is going to require people to be in the office at least part of the time.

    5. Lentils*

      My current job fully covers bus/transit cards for everyone, which is a godsend (especially because many of the routes into the city require more than 1 bus, and the most direct route is almost $5/ride).

    6. Mr. Shark*

      Yes, commuting subsidizing is a great idea. My last company paid for bus pass / partial train/ferry passes. Depending on position (if you had to travel for work) they would pay for parking pass.

  10. Charlotte Lucas*

    Add adoption to maternity/paternity benefits. I had a coworker who adopted & had to use all PTO, because it wasn’t included as a maternity benefit. Not only did she still have a newborn baby at home, but she missed out on some of the bonding time that other new mothers at the company got.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      And this shouldn’t just be for adopting infants. A child of any age needs to bond with new parents. (If this could be extended to foster parents, even better!)

    2. Miss Muffet*

      Yes – make adoption leave equal to whatever you are giving for birth-giving parents. So if you give 6weeks of “short term disability” for maternity leave, plus 12 weeks of paid parental leave, for instance, give 18 weeks of parental leave for adoptive parents. The reality is that while some parents need the actual ‘disability leave’ part, they don’t usually need it for all 6 weeks, and most are doing the same stuff that any adoptive parent is doing for all that time. Just make it equal. It shows that you consider families formed by any process as equal.

      1. Gan Ainm*

        I disagree with this, carrying a child and giving birth is an intense physical and medical event that deserves medical leave to recover from. if adoptive parents aren’t getting the support they need the answer is to address that, not dismissively erase womens medical leave as unnecessary or unimportant.

        1. DataSci*

          It’s not pie. Nobody’s taking away your leave to give it to the adoptive parents who at many places currently get NOTHING. They’re just giving people who build families in other ways leave, too.

        2. Em*

          Parental leave is for bonding too. It is absurd to say that adoptive parents do not deserve equal leave. This person isn’t saying take away disability, they are saying if that is worked in the equation as part of the leave, give adopted parents the opportunity to have as much time off.

      2. Temperance*

        It’s not about considering families to be “equal”; birth is a major medical event and I think that the six-week disability period isn’t even truly adequate. Recognizing this doesn’t cause harm, but minimizing it absolutely does. Pregnancy and the possibility of such has been used to disadvantage women in the workplace for years and years.

    3. amcb13*

      Also other major household changes that aren’t as “official” as adoption–people with a parent/nibling/godchild/etc. moving in and requiring care would also benefit from time off, especially if there’s the option to take it nonconsecutively (medical appointments, school enrollment, child or elder care enrollment, etc.)

  11. Smithy*

    While I think that the bereavement policies are wonderfully generous – I do wonder if it makes sense to consider adding a tier for the loss of a child, parent or spouse/partner to 5 days.

    Very understandably, there will inevitably be people who have friends or other family members who are very close and a sudden passing would be very distressing and may need more than the three days. And I understand a desire with the current policy to not litigate this.

    However, the other nice part of having these policies written out, is that when you are in the later stages of a very close family member passing and you have more to take care of around immediate arrangements – being able to check a policy and know you have 5 days is one less thing you need to do as opposed to reaching out to your supervisor and asking how you can add another 2. Additionally, for those who are Jewish, sitting shiva typically requires 5 business days and for many Jews in the US, the more traditional scope of immediate family (inclusive of partner) would cover that.

    1. CheesePlease*

      Yes agree. If a close friend dies, days to process grief and attend any funeral services are necessary. If a partner dies, now you are probably dealing with lawyers, banks, grieving children, insurance etc etc – the paperwork and meetings you need to manage are certainly more involved. It could be even separated as “bereavement leave” and then “end of life management leave” or something so that people who have to deal with the terrible and difficult paperwork and logistics associated with death have time for that too.

      1. Close Friends*

        When my close friend died, her family was estranged. It fell on me and one other friend to deal with the lawyers, banks, insurance, and funeral planning (with the fun bonus of trying to track down estranged family members for things that absolutely legally required their signature, like moving the body from the hospital to the funeral home). I am grateful that my work granted me leave without comment and would strongly advise not crafting policies that assume you know what “tiers” of relationships demand what levels of involvement.

        1. Smithy*

          I think by adding a 3rd tier, there’s also an ability to add “at the discretion of the manager” for cases as you mention.

          There are lots of different family and personal support configurations, and including the ability of discretion with a manager is helpful in providing a place to start. The three day bereavement will be known to employees in advance, and then if it’s a case of a grandparent who was like a parent or the passing of a close friend very far away – it provides a basis to at least ask for those next two days either as bereavement or PTO.

          3-5 days is never completely enough time to close an estate or mourn or anything like that. And good employers also find ways to work with staff who need other accommodations, but just to flag that adding it in writing means that it’s known to employees in advanced instead of needing to be asked for.

          1. CheesePlease*

            Yeah, something like that. I don’t think any employer should say ‘I can’t give you bereavement because it doesn’t qualify by the rules’ but I also would like for employees to not have to justify why they need leave, and instead just ask for the extra X days given for any needs such as executer, estate management etc.

        2. Jj*

          thank you so much for saying this. I am the friend with estranged relatives, and essentially no family ties. I am totally dependent on my friends the way other people are on family. If a company doesn’t want to litigate things, I think a fair policy would be something like giving people space when hired to designate 5-10 (or however many) “immediate relationships” that are people they are extremely close to and logistically obligated to. Those could be the higher leave category and other losses of any kind could be a generous, but lesser leave. Very few people are going to game a system like that and for people with functional immediate families it will amount to the same thing as a typical policy, but for those of us without, it would be a life saver.

        3. Chosen fam*

          Seconding this a thousand times. My friend’s family were abusive and estranged. They did not deal with her assets and funeral, it was me and a group of her other friends who did. My work didn’t question the time off I requested, despite her not being family, and thank god they didn’t since I was not in the best state of mind at the time.

    2. CorpGirl*

      I know some companies will be flexible with the # of bereavement days they give you based on circumstances, so perhaps they could update the policy to say “additional days can be granted at manager’s discretion”? I recently had a friend who’s parent died (they were living together and in the process of selling their apartment), and her company ended up giving her several paid weeks off even though the policy was “up to 5 days”.

  12. Lapis Lazuli*

    Always a fan of the 4-day workweek where feasible, expanded paid parental leave, paid prenatal leave time, and flexible work from home options. Trying to think of things not already in the comments. Maybe a couple weeks for new pets and/or expanded vacation time as well?

    1. anonymouse*

      ohh yes flex scheduling would be a huge benefit! especially if you have folks working from home. my company works across multiple timezones so restricting me to 8am-5pm isn’t very logical.

  13. Llama Llover*

    This is a pretty generous list – relatively speaking – as it stands. I would take a look at how they’re worded. Spouse/partner instead of wife/husband and the like to remove gender as much as you can. If I can see myself in your language describing the benefit, I can see myself using it and finding it valuable to me.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      If wife/husband can refer to a lesbian/gay relationship, why does it need to be removed? Maybe I’m crazy, but I would think lesbians like to say “wife” and not revert back to awkward 1980s phrasing like “partner” or “spouse” to hide their sexuality

      1. Marie*

        Because it’s gendered language. I’m heterosexual and use the word “partner” & “Spouse” interchangeably in my own relationship.

      2. Web Crawler*

        The reason is to cover non-binary people who don’t see themselves as a wife or a husband. “Partner” can also refer to domestic partners, not just spouses.

      3. irianamistifi*

        Because wife/husband are terms that apply to a specific gender, not necessarily a specific attraction. But there’s people out there who don’t identify specifically as male/masculine/female/feminine. Why not just use “Partner” which has the benefit of indicating the person is in a linked relationship and doesn’t have the gender baggage attached to it?

        Plus, “partner” gives additional flexibility for those on non-standard relationships.

      4. Ann Onymous*

        Wife/husband can be inclusive of multiple sexual orientations, but isn’t necessarily inclusive of all gender identities. A non-binary person may not want to be referred to as a husband or wife. Spouse or partner is inclusive of all couples, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identify of the people involved.

  14. Prospect Gone Bad*

    the 401K is great. Keep up with things like that that impact a broad group of people. It’s great to generally be inclusive, but actually makes employees unhappy if you add benefits for groups that may not even be at the company but leave gaping problems unfixed. IME working with a lot of younger people, many who are not white, Asian, or Indian (which I absolutely hate to bring up, but I notice such a stark difference in groups so am mentioning it) are way too hesitant to start a 401K. I remember from my younger years that the first $40K or so was the worst to save because there is zero growth, it’s all savings and with no interest or dividends of any substance. Hence many people don’t even start. I do notice different groups being way more averse to it. I am tired of explaining to people we all struggle in the beginning and having them find new excuses not to contribute. I love you skip this back and forth and just throw some money at them.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Not only is your advice pertinent, it’s CRITICAL. I advise anyone who is under 40 to start one NOW. And if you have enough money to live on – view your 401`K (and Roth IRA, too) — as money off the top of your paycheck. It is far more important to make those contributions, than to take an extra vacation, or purchase a $50,000 SUV when your $25,000 sedan or mini-van will suffice.

      But do keep an eye on your investments!

  15. silly little public health worker*

    hey! one thing i’ve been able to offer for my team is flexible hours to accommodate childcare needs – as long as they’re in the office for things that are really critical, i give them a lot of leeway to take care of their kiddos. it’s actually helped productivity because we have coverage at non-standard times (this is important in our field specifically) and my affected staff aren’t spending as much $$ or brainspace on childcare which makes them happier.

    also – as a queer person trying to start a family – please check with your insurance carrier around who can qualify as a spouse/partner or dependent to be added to healthcare coverage, and if non-married partners can be added to things like health insurance, fertility care, etc. a lot of carriers switched from “partners are okay in some cases” to “married only” after marriage equality became the law of the land, but now many of us are concerned that this will get rolled back, and if the standard is married only it will kick our partners off our plans. knowing our partners would be protected – whether or not we were able to get married before marriage equality may end – would be HUGE.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I don’t want to jump on you here because I love your flexibility! But I do want to gently ask, are you giving that flexibility only to accommodate childcare needs? And if so, have you considered that you’re putting people without childcare needs in a position of having to support their colleagues’ flexible schedules?

      You’ve established that your team can function under a model of “be here for critical things, beyond that you can flex when you need to.” It’s not a huge step to go from doing that just for childcare, to extending it to everyone. It will be more equitable and probably be seen as a huge motivator/benefit to your team.

    2. municipal government jane*

      Yes! Inclusivity for fertility coverage is huge. If someone needs a diagnosis of primary infertility in order to access fertility care, lots of single and/or queer parents/parents-to-be will be excluded from coverage and will have to pay out of pocket.

      1. Sad lesbian*

        Yes! As someone currently attempting to navigate having a child as a woman married to a woman… it’s tough. Most insurance carriers require 6 insemination attempts before you qualify for fertility coverage. If you’re someone with “access to sperm” (this is how insurance companies define it), like a cisgender woman married to cisgender man, you can make 3 of those attempts naturally at home and then have to do 3 medicated to qualify for coverage.

        In other words, I’ll be paying for at least my first 6 attempts (3 unmedicated, 3 medicated) if they’re all unsuccessful, whereas an opposite-sex couple would only pay for 3 max. It makes sense biologically but is still upsetting.

        I’ve heard of some companies offering up a set dollar amount that all employees can use towards having children, whether that’s via adoption, insemination, IVF, surrogacy, or whatever else. To me personally, that would be a HUGE benefit.

  16. Lynn*

    Do you have a tuition reimbursement program for ongoing educational opportunities? That could be a big one.

    Also I think a big blind spot companies have had is on miscarriage management. Not all insurance companies cover the treatment of miscarriages (even if they would have fully covered the pregnancy had it successfully continued!) or have good leave and support policies around a miscarriage

    Also flex time and WFH rules, and potentially a stipend or program to provide home office support would be great!

    1. ferrina*

      It’s actually starting to be recommended to move away from tuition reimbursement to loan repayment. Part of the thought process is that the company is already benefiting from the education that you took out the loan for; they may or may not benefit from the on-going education.

      It’s also an equity initiative- for example, I came from lower class background and paid for my degree in scholarships and loans; my friend had her parents pay for her degree with no loans. I paid back $500 per month for well over a decade; she saved that money for a down payment on a house. Now she has a real estate investment as well as a degree, even though we both got the same degree and worked just as hard. Generational wealth is a big contributor to the wealth gap, and loan repayment helps a little in balancing that out. (Side note that generational wealth through property ownership also has a big impact, and property ownership was denied/forcibly removed with little/no compensation from racial minorities for a significant portion of America’s history. One example among many: Bruce’s Beach in California.)

      1. Lynn*

        That’s a great point, but I don’t think these programs have to be necessarily mutually exclusive! It could also depend on the education background of the employees at the company what is more impactful.

    2. mli25*

      It would be cool to have reimbursement for things like conferences or shorter term courses instead of full on degree programs. I have two degrees that are fully paid (one, in part, by a former employer) and so many companies focus on degrees instead of training/conferences/etc that help people keep their knowledge fresh. It should be generous enough to include an out of town conference fully paid (fee, travel, etc).

      1. Lab Boss*

        That can also be a direct benefit to the company, beyond the indirect benefits of engaging a diverse and happy set of employees. My company lets people volunteer as internal first responders and gets us basic first aid training, but there was some talk about how it would be nice to have some more extensively-trained people around in case of a more major emergency. I offered to pursue training on my own time if they’d reimburse, but was turned down because “Tuition reimbursement is only for a degree-granting program directly related to your specific job duties.”

      2. The Real Fran Fine*

        My company’s tuition reimbursement does just this. You can be reimbursed for licensing exams, conference travels, short term certificate programs, etc. up to the same amount they pay for an undergraduate degree. We also have a generous reimbursement amount for graduate degrees. It’s pretty awesome.

  17. Smithy*

    Medical Concierge Service.

    I had one employer get us this benefit after they switched our Health insurance for like the third time in 4 years. As part of the overall EAP services, the Medical Concierge was someone who could actually help you find a niche service provider in network, file claims to the insurance company, navigate disputed claims, etc. It was incredibly helpful.

    1. irianamistifi*

      Oh gosh yes. When I worked for a health insurance company, they offered this and it was amazing.

    2. MrsSwimmer*

      I would LOVE a benefit like this! I believe it would also save money for the company so win win!

  18. Michelle Smith*

    If you’re able to afford it, a professional development budget is a huge, huge asset to someone like me who loves learning. It would be really cool to just be able to go to a conference or take an online course without having to figure out how to pay for it out of my own salary! And it would be nice if it was flexible for whatever the employee wants to do that would be an asset to their position. So for example, to maintain an existing certification or to earn a new one.

    1. tiny_strawberries*

      Absolutely. I took advantage of my company’s generous PD budget to do a graduate certificate and it really helped me in my career.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        That’s awesome!! I’m in a graduate certificate program now, but unfortunately am having to pay out of pocket so it’s taking twice as long to complete.

    2. ferrina*

      YES! And making clear what the budget is. I hate jumping through hoops to try to figure out what my company will/won’t pay for. Just give me the budget range, and I’ll find something in that range.
      You can even level it by years- every 3 years you get a larger amount, or such.

    3. mli25*

      Commented something similar above. The amount provided should cover the expenses of the conference too, such as travel, in addition the conference fee itself.

    4. Fortune 100*

      THIS. Add in the ability to do this during working hours. That could mean flexing a 40hour schedule to let them attend daytime classes, or even letting employees spend X hours/month on learning while on the clock.
      My current company has gone a step farther by setting aside a day per month entirely for professional development — meetings strongly discouraged by upper management, online training provided by corporate training dept as well as subscription to external programs.

  19. Hmmm*

    Be flexible – people have lives outside of the office. Don’t nickel and dime someone who is a parent, someone who is going to school, someone has a doctors appt, bad weather, someone taking a fun class or meeting with friends.

    Let them make time up with coming in early/ staying late, taking a shorter lunch

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yep the management of PTO and how you charge folks can be much more impactful than what you technically offer.

    2. louvella*

      Honestly the biggest “benefit” I get at my workplace is that I can’t take a partial day of PTO. If I work at all that day, I don’t need to take PTO. If you’re going to be gone for a few hours, or even half the day, you just block it on your calendar, no questions asked.

    3. Lab Boss*

      Yes! Sometimes I think the most valuable phrase I use as a boss is “I don’t care.” So many people comin from other work environments will try to come to me with some elaborate justification for why they need time off or how they’ll make up for being 20 minutes late that day and I can just say “I don’t care why, do what you need to do, if you’re giving me an honest effort that’s good enough.”

  20. The One Who Burned the Popcorn*

    Re the 401K contribution: Aren’t you penalizing EEs who already contribute 6%? I’d be pretty peeved at a company that decreased my 401K match.

    1. Eric*

      As I read it, if you currently contribute 6%, you get a 6% match. Under new plan you get 3% automatically + 3% match, for the same 6%. So nobody is worse off, but people who contribute less than 6% are better off.

    2. CatCat*

      I read it as “everyone gets 3% contribution from the company regardless of whether they participate. After that 3%, they get 50% match up up to 6% that the employee sets aside.

      So anyone already contributing 6% sees no change. They get 3% automatically from the company. Then another 3% as 50% of their 6% contribution.

      But anyone who wasn’t contributing, will see a significant benefit. This is really helpful especially for people lower on the salary scale who may not be able to contribute.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Because I’m a big old numbers nerd, I worked out the full scale. Anyone who was maxing out their employer match (contributing 6% or more) will see no change. Anyone who was contributing less than 6% will benefit from the change, and with the benefit getting stronger the further down the contribution scale you went:

        0% contribution = 3% match (up from 0%)
        1% = 3.5% match
        2% = 4% match
        3% = 4.5% match
        4% = 5% match
        5% = 5.5% match
        6% = 6% match

    3. CheesePlease*

      “Currently a 100% company match on first 6% of compensation. This is being changed…if an employee defers 6% of pay, they get 3% company match” – to me this means that if you were contributing 6% previously, you got a 6% match. Now you only get a 50% match of that 6% ON TOP of a 3% automatic amount. It’s worded in a way that does make it confusing, so OP really should communicate it clearly.

  21. Ann Onymous*

    In addition to sick leave, dependent care leave, and vacation time my employer gives us 40 hours per year of “absent with permission” leave. It’s paid time off for those times you need to be away from work that don’t really fit in the sick leave or vacation time bucket – car trouble, flooded basement, etc. Your manager just needs to approve it. I used a half day a couple years ago to speak to middle schoolers about my job at an after school program a friend of mine was running.

    1. OtterB*

      This is included for us in a sick/personal bucket, separate from vacation. This category can be used for your own illness, care for a family/household member, or “anything that makes your life easier.” I have used it for attending school conferences when my kids were still in school, renewing driver’s license, and things like plumbing/HVAC emergencies (although limited amount of time needed for that, due to ability to work from home while waiting on service person).

    2. SQL Coder Cat*

      I was coming here to say something similar- especially if you have a system that disincentives same day time off in any way, you need to have at least a few days a year where employees can take off at the last minute without penalty. My work gives us three days a year- no approvals needed. Those days would have made such a difference to me earlier in my career when I was in hourly positions that tracked attendance and penalized you if you used too much sick time.

    3. Madtown Maven*

      My employer offers just plain PTO — a single-bucket system to be used for any and all paid time away from work. It starts at a rate of 4 weeks per year, and goes up to 6 weeks per year (we also have 11 paid holidays). I really like how there’s no need to clarify the reason for needing the time off. We’re also allowed to carry over up to 80 hours of PTO into the next year.

    4. anonymous here*

      NC State university. Some of these are specific to higher ed but you can extrapolate to your situation.

      We recently got a personal observance day of additional PTO — can be religious but doesn’t have to be; I will use part of mine on Election Day.

      We already get PTO for volunteering, and just got a day of PTO if we COVID boosted.

      Hybrid and flexible and remote have all been approved at the University level, subject to supervisor and division/college approval. The approval , and it can be yanked back — I understand different jobs have different needs, and situations can change, but it would be a stronger reg if supervisor/dean/division head had the onus proving why it couldn’t be granted when requested. Especially when we have actual data demonstrating remote is highly effective and students often prefer it for some services.

      We have tuition coverage (1 or 2 classes/term), which must be related to your position. Some supervisors will sign off on any course but many will not — ideal would be to dump that description.

      We have tuition for employees’ dependents, that one’s great!

      Our career center has a professional clothes closet for students (they can keep the clothes): if your pay is not the greatest, perhaps could offer something similar for employees who can’t afford appropriate clothing for conferences and presentations.

      We have CARES referrals for students, faculty, staff of concern. Anyone can make a referral (can be anonymous). CARES team includes health services, counseling center, disability services, campus police, and other professionals who meet to evaluate and follow up on cases.

      Things I wish we had:
      3/4 hours with 100% health insurance benefit

      Job sharing — two part timers sharing one job without loss of full health insurance benefits.

      Longer coverage (= more sessions) for mental health care.

      $15 minimum wage for facilities, food service, housekeeping etc staff — free health insurance for employees who make at or below full time at $15/hour. Subsidized commuting for same.

      Expand TRIO services and similar programs for students.

      Require opportunity-type programs to proactively offer, find, assist with applications etc, and provide real/sufficient financial and academic resources to BIPOC and under-resourced students (instead of, you know, saying we just can’t find any Black or Latinx students). Programs like university honors, undergraduate research, fellowships, study abroad…

      Little things: faculty and staff pay student price for arts and sports tickets. Free parking permits for faculty and staff. Stop charging us PTO on days when the university is closed over the winter holiday.

      And the number one wish I could go back in time and they’d get it right request: when there’s a deadly pandemic starting and the university suspends classes and non medical services for X days while TPTB figure out what to do, don’t force staff to come to work, and don’t insist they must see students and parents in person despite suspension of services. = Treat your employees with actual consideration for their health and their very lives, don’t just offer lip service. (Not one of us who were there that day will ever forget it. Ever. )

  22. OyHiOh*

    If a specific PTO bucket for non Christian holidays and events is a no go, an option a previous workplace used might work instead (depending on the type of work you do, etc). At that workplace, we could swap any holiday on our approved list for a day of our choice (for example, I would work Veterans Day and President’s day (we followed the US federal list so normally everyone was off) and use those days to take off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

    1. Sylvan*

      I’d love this! No religious holidays for me, just like working on Christmas and taking some other days off.

    2. Donna Noble*

      I worked at a 24/7 emergency management agency. You got however many paid holidays a year and if you had to work on the holiday, you could schedule your holiday anytime in the next year (before the next iteration of the same holiday). Same for birthday but had to be within a week or two if I remember.

    3. Madtown Maven*

      Our company is moving to a system of having 11 floating holidays, to be used as each employee desires. This change has been about 10 years in the making, and it’s so obviously simple to understand now that many of us are wondering why it took so long. But it really did take lots of time for people–including leadership and general staff–to get their minds around it.

  23. Marie*

    One thing my company did, which I think is neat, is partner with a company called Fringe (Search “Fringe Marketplace”, it’s the link that ends in .us). Every pay period employees get points to spend at the Fringe Marketplace, and Fringe partners with all sorts of companies where you can spend your points- everything from Uber discounts to Cruise discounts, Milkbar bakery, Online fitness apps, parenting support, etc. You can also choose to convert your points to an HSA contribution.

    Before, our company just matched our HSA contribution up to a specific dollar amount, but now they have converted that dollar amount match to Fringe Marketplace points, so there is a lot more flexibility in how I can spend those points. My company frames it as saying that “Wellness” means different things to different people at different times, so they wanted to maximize flexibility.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      As someone who uses their HSA as an additional retirement vehicle this would irk me quite a bit. That being said, if you’re giving each employee the choice of a HSA match or Fringe points, then great!

    2. xtinerat*

      My company has a slightly different version of this called Bonusly, as a rewards system. Everyone gets a set monthly “budget” of points to give away to coworkers as thanks for assistance, collaboration, etc. Points you receive can be redeemed for things like gift cards and charitable donations.

  24. a tester, not a developer*

    I’m partial to a wellness account that covers a lot of different things; mine not only does ‘traditional’ health stuff like gym memberships and running shoes. Want to take a cooking class? Sure – it’s good for your mental health! Need to cover fees for your kid’s t-ball? Yep – the account covers anyone living at your address.

    1. Willow Sunstar*

      This would be good plus those who want to use weight loss services, most diets have a fee associated with them. That was one of the reasons I have stopped doing WW. It’s too expensive with inflation and other things I need to pay for. Health insurance companies keep saying they want us to be thin, yet most don’t really pay for diet services, and often won’t cover weight loss medications if you are actually trying to eat right, and don’t have diabetes or heart disease as a complication. They tend to just reward already thin people and penalize people who aren’t.

      1. a tester, not a developer*

        Yeah, in the before times the company used to have WW sessions in the auditorium at a significant discount. And you can use our benefits for a registered dietician if that’s more your style.

      2. raktajino*

        my insurance covers a very specific, group-based diet plan (that is shady imo) and no nutritionist or dietician support. Real helpful, thanks.

  25. Venus*

    Our workplace has bereavement leave for ‘one person who is like family’. We have generous leave of 5 days, so they can’t offer the leave in an unlimited way, yet having this as a one-time benefit feels thoughtful and kind. A month after the change was announced, my coworker used it for an extended family member with whom he was very close and I know he really appreciated it.

    1. mli25*

      I would love this. I am closer to members of my husband’s family than my own, so being to take bereavement leave for them with no questions asked would be lovely.

      Also, keep in mind that death and services don’t necessarily happen all at once. Military funerals take months to happen after the death, so ensure that there is enough leave to cover both the immediate and future needs related to the same death.

  26. Less Bread More Taxes*

    I would add sterilization procedures and other types of birth control to what your insurance covers. My current job does an amazing job of covering people who want kids – e.g., surrogacy and IVF are covered in full. But people who want hysterectomies or vasectomies have to pay essentially 100% out of pocket. It doesn’t seem fair.

    1. Gan Ainm*

      If agree with this, especially because OP said gender dysphoria coverage is going to be provided – so if you’re going to cover a hysterectomy for some women you better cover it for all, etc etc.

      1. DataSci*

        I understand what you’re trying to say, but hysterectomies as gender-affirming treatments would be for (AFAB) men, not for women.

        1. Tracy Flick*

          Well, not only AFAB men, because you can be non-binary (and in that instance, even identify on some level as a woman, or as not-not-a-woman) and still seek a hysterectomy as part of gender-affirming medical treatment.

          That’s a pretty common scenario these days, actually – we don’t have data but non-binary trans people are at minimum a plurality, and they’re not less likely to seek transition-related medical care.

          Birth assignment also isn’t the same as physiology; “AFAB” is not the same as “all those who have a uterus.”

          So if you want to be inclusive, you can just say, “If you’re going to cover a hysterectomy for some employees you better cover it for all.”

          Also, I’ve found that it’s easier to avoid cissexist phrasing – which is based on generalizations about gender – if you focus on the category you want to reference rather than something that generally includes or equates to that category. No easy solutions to bias that is baked in, but IME it helps.

    2. mli25*

      This would have been amazing to have when I got my IUD and then my hysterectomy. It would also be nice to have some leave category (family planning? I am terrible with naming things) that I could have used for the recovery, since it was surgery (hysterotomy).

      Maybe a general medical procedure recovery bucket of time? Might get sticky, but if no revealing details are needed, it would be a nice additional bucket of leave to access.

  27. Ihmmy*

    minor, but recommend updating language in to “gender affirming care” instead of specifying it has to be related to dysphoria

    1. marvin*

      I came here to mention that I’m honestly not sure what gender dysphoria benefits actually mean. If the company is willing to cover things like surgical procedures, hair removal, and hormone prescriptions, and provide generous paid medical leave, it would be really helpful to be explicit about that. A lot of gender affirming health care is quite expensive (and trans people tend to make less money than cis people) so these programs could make a huge difference.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        My job just sent out a benefits update that explicitly said hair removal and transplantation is now part of gender-affirming coverage, which I thought was great.

      2. genderqueer reader*

        To add to this: even in states where insurance coverage of gender-affirming care is mandated, gender-affirming surgeries are not fully covered, EVEN IF the insurance claims it is. This is because insurance usually covers “medically necessary” procedures but not “cosmetic” procedures, and gender-affirming surgeries are considered both. The insurance will pay for the part of the procedure they consider “medically necessary” but not the part considered “cosmetic.” Having a benefits package that actually, truly covered 100% of these procedures would be truly life-changing for many people.

        1. Middle Name Danger*

          My insurance covered two of the three separately billed parts of my top surgery. They wouldn’t cover the part that included liposuction because it was “cosmetic” even though it was a necessary and non-optional part of surgery.

    2. teapot QA*

      LW should really dig into the benefits for trans healthcare. Is FFS covered? Dermal fillers? Certain surgeries but not others (many people don’t know there’s like 10 different types of bottom surgery)?Is there a lifetime limit to coverage? Transition related healthcare (before insurance, if you have insurance) can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime, depending on the individual person’s transition goals, so a lifetime cap of $10K or $20K, while common, isn’t going to scream “we want to hire and retain trans people.” I know it’s a complex topic but it’s definitely worth learning about since your company is clearly making an effort to offer benefits that benefit everyone!

  28. Web Crawler*

    If you don’t already, please expand your insurance coverage to let people cover domestic partners. This is the main benefit I’m looking for in my next job, because I’m not married to my partner for personal reasons.

  29. SIM Card Erased*

    Benefit Broker here:
    *Pet insurance is WILDLY popular with some employers even picking up part of the premium
    *Student loan financing/refinacing
    *Fringe-you give employees dollars that turn into points that allow for things like subscription services, wellness events, massages, gym memberships, travel, and can even go towards paying down student loans
    *Birthday time off outside of PTO
    *4 Cultural holidays per year outside of the standard ones (Christmas, Thanksgiving, LAbor Day, Memorial Day etc)
    *Election Day off so everyone can vote

    1. SIM Card Erased*

      Also- Care dot com is moving into the corporate market and is providing services to help people arrange back up child and adult care.

    2. Paris Geller*

      Oh, I would love pet insurance as a benefit! That’s a good one I’ve never thought of before.

    3. JustKnope*

      We get 4 hours of PTO a year specific to voting – it’s nice because we’re all spread out over the US so it can account for things like different primary days or local elections.

    4. Ashley*

      Election Day is huge. I know a place that gives you a few hours for voting but will give you the day if you work the election.

      1. ferrina*

        Nice! I worked at a place with unlimited PTO, and in the weeks leading up to election day, I made a point to tell my team to flex their time as much as needed so they could vote/volunteer/whatever they were doing to support democracy.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          In many states, shift workers (like = 7 to 7 or 8 to 8) have to be given time off to vote. But if you work 9 to 5, and the voting booth is open 7 am to 8 pm, you’ve got sufficient time to go to vote.

    5. HigherEdAdmin*

      Would love all of these. I wish that those of us without families could use some of those funds for pet insurance premiums.

    6. JessicaTate*

      To your last point, my company offers Voting Leave. So, if you need to vote in-person — in ANY election, general, primary, special, even-year, odd-year — the time you need to do that is additional paid time off (not vacation, sick, or holiday). If it’s a quick half-hour, great. If you live in one of those precincts where they have reduced access so that you’re forced to stand in line for 8 hours to vote, in an effort to disenfranchise you, the company wants you to stand in that line and exercise your rights and not worry about losing pay or PTO.

      There’s also Poll Worker Leave. If you are a poll worker, you can talk with your manager in advance, and they will make every effort to accommodate you having that day off (again, paid, not coming out of an existing pool of days) to do that civic duty. I suspect if you were going to be volunteering for any other voting access work — giving rides to people, etc. — they’d accommodate that too. The principle behind it is encouraging civic participation.

      I’ve worked at a place that gave everyone (general) Election Day off as one of their (limited) paid holidays. I liked that less because: A) it doesn’t address voting in primaries, and frankly, B) no one I knew used it to be a poll worker or other election related work. If you didn’t need the whole day to vote, it was just a random holiday. In this company, it’s deployed to support/encourage the exercising of one’s civic duty specifically, and is separate from your pool of holiday days.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        The company I work for requires we use PTO in 4 or 8 hour blocks. So we’d have to use 4 hours minimum to vote. Luckily, I live in a state that allows early voting.

  30. GigglyPuff*

    I don’t know how much leeway private employers have but how good is your medical coverage for prescription drugs and premiums? I know different case but my state government has negotiated completely covered insulin costs for the last couple years and our premiums are super cheap. Pretty much the #1 reason I stay at my job, any increase in salary offers at a new job is erased in more expensive medical coverage.

    Also add fosters to parental leave policies.

  31. Mehitabel*

    I’m just going to suggest re-thinking the bereavement leave. If someone loses a spouse, child or parent, coming back to work after three days is asking a whole lot of them. My organization’s bereavement leave policy is 2 weeks for an immediate family member, 1 week for an extended family member, and 3 days for pets. And we don’t police who is immediate or extended family — our employees define that for themselves.

    I also believe that employers should cover not just their employees but also dependents for medical insurance. People should not have to pay hundreds of dollars every month for their kids to be covered.

    1. WomEngineer*

      That’s a great bereavement policy. It’s so comforting to not have to go back to “normal” right away.

    2. Jj*

      thank you so much for not defining immediate family for people. I have no legal or romantic relationship to the loved one I have lived with for over a decade. He is older than me though and likely to die first, and I dread the thought that when the time comes, or even if he is sick and in need of care taking, I might have a job that doesn’t honor our relationship in it’s leave policies. Not all of us are blessed with spouses or family of origin and it is such a relief to see more companies recognize this!

  32. sb51*

    Check that all your external vendors are set up with inclusive language and options—it’s great that you offer [benefit X] to staff and partners but make sure the outside vendor doesn’t require a binary gender field somewhere buried in the forms, etc.

    If you offer gym/other health benefits, make sure there’s no fatphobic or other judgemental language—our work gym is awesome but they send out a lot of “want to lose the holiday weight? Come to our new spin class” type emails and just “come to our new spin class it’s fun” would be fine.

    Have human-authored captioning available on training and widely-circulated materials. Plus anything else that would help make it a welcoming environment for neurodiverse employees (captioning is the one that would personally help me but there’s many more.)

    1. allathian*

      Seconding captioning. I’m NT, but I have some auditory processing issues, and the captions on our training videos really help, even if, given the choice, I’d far rather just read the script/pptx with notes and skip the video entirely. Videos are a waste of time as far as I’m concerned, I read at least 3 times as fast as people speak, and I also retain things I read much better than those I hear. Because of the processing issues, I can’t even speed up the video to waste less time, the smurfy voices on speeded-up video grate on my ears.

      I do hope that gyms start eliminating their fatphobic advertising, it would encourage more people to go who’d really benefit. At the very least, companies that want to be inclusive should include fatphobia as something they’re actively working against. Given that nearly 75 percent of adults in the US are overweight to some degree, there’s certainly a market for “healthy at any weight” messaging.

  33. WomEngineer*

    Seconding what others have said about PTO for volunteering activities, childcare, and a few days for “personal holidays.”

    PTO/funding for DEI-related conferences would be cool too. Great employee development and it shows others outside the company what you value.

  34. I should really pick a name*

    I’m curious what gender dysphoria coverage actually covers as it sounds kind of vague to me.
    I’d assume counselling, and medical transition costs.

    1. Sylvan*


      That’s also what it sounds like to me, which sounds good. But if you have an employee who’s transgender, they’re going to need to know exactly what is available to them and whether it’s affordable.

      1. Robin*

        On that note, in my experience it’s fairly arbitrary what insurance considers essential vs cosmetic in terms of trans healthcare. For example, my insurance company considered hair removal cosmetic and were completely stringent on that point even for body hair when it was a medical necessity before (covered) surgery. It probably depends on the insurance company, but you should push them to include “cosmetic” procedures when possible and at least make sure they’re clear about what they consider cosmetic

        1. Sonny*

          of course when a cis person needs hormones or surgeries to better align with expectations of their gender, insurance companies have no problem covering that!

  35. UK benefits*

    I’m in the UK, so the thing that jumps out to me (and maybe this is already covered) is making sure your PTO allowance is actually generous. In the UK every full-time worker has to get a minimum of 28 days paid leave a year (and everywhere that I’ve worked that’s non-customer facing gets 28 days plus bank holidays as a minimum). So I would say start with that as your baseline, and then add a day per year of service.

    I’m always astounded when I read this site at how poor holiday entitlement is in the US.

    Other things off the top of my head:
    – Paid maternity and paternity leave (and adoption leave)
    – Some kind of childcare benefit that can apply to any child living in your home
    – A strong flexible working policy that kicks in at day one – which includes options for all kinds of flexible working (WFH, hybrid, compressed hours, part time, job-share)
    – If you’re an in-person company (even hybrid), any kind of subsidised or free meals always goes down well, especially at the moment with CoL pressures.

  36. Sylvan*

    I’m just going to throw some questions at you! These are all about everyday practicalities.

    How physically accessible is your workplace? That is:

    – Are tables at wheelchair level?

    – Are meeting and conference spaces wheelchair-accessible?

    – Can doors be opened by someone who can’t grab and turn a knob?

    – If you have a wheelchair ramp, where is it and has someone who uses a wheelchair tested it? I’ve seen some ramps that could be used by a person in a wheelchair if someone assisted them, but the ramps were too steeply pitched for someone to wheel down alone without launching themselves like a pine box derby car.

    – Can people with mobility impairments evacuate the building easily in a fire drill? (Big learning experiences for me: The time we had a fire drill while my coworker was nine months pregnant. The time we had a real evacuation after my bad leg became the bad leg.)

    1. Sylvan*

      Oh crap, I somehow read “make our (company/workplace) more inclusive” rather than “make our benefits more inclusive.” Sorry!

      When it comes to benefits, I’d look at how sick days interact with other PTO. Can someone who takes sick days still take a regular day off for a vacation? Can someone take part but not all of a day off? Also, what’s your WFH policy like?

    2. Dino*

      Jumping off this: look into a separate insurance rider for hearing aid/cochlear implants coverage! Hearing aids are expensive and most insurance doesn’t cover it. I know several deaf/hard of hearing people who have skills and education and WANT to work, but can’t afford the hearing aids that would allow them to work successfully.