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Some of America's Richest Companies Have Pathetic Paid Leave Plans

Here's what the top ten Fortune 500 companies offer their employees

A group of five corporations announced on Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting that they will improve their paid family leave policies. The companies, which include Barclays, Nestlé, and Danone (owner of Dannon yogurt and Evian water), have formed the Working Parent Support Coalition to work together to expand supportive policies for their employees, including breastfeeding access and programs to help them transition back to work.

Each coalition member sets their own goals for improvement, but all will be expected to improve within three years. Many of them already have relatively generous policies in place. Ernst & Young offers up to 39 weeks of paid maternity leave. KKR, a financial firm, now offers 16 weeks of paid parental leave, as does Barclays. Nestlé offers 14. Danone is aiming to increase their plan—which currently ranges from unpaid leave to five days paid leave at their various U.S. companies—to six months of paid leave for the primary caregiver. (After this article was published, a Danone spokesman told the New Republic he misspoke, and that the company currently offers a minimum of six weeks’ paid maternity leave.)

So what about the top Fortune 500 companies—the ones that, it would seem, could afford to be generous about paid leave? For the most part, it isn’t pretty.

Although some of the top ten Fortune 500 companies offer comprehensive plans, most only offer coverage through disability plans (which typically give birth mothers partial salary for 6-8 weeks) and accrued vacation days. Some were also incredibly reticent to share what those plans are, and did not respond to repeated calls and emails asking for comment.

Here's the top ten, with company profits from the past fiscal year in parentheses. We will update this list if we hear back from the companies that didn't comment.

1. Wal-Mart ($16,363,000,000)

Wal-Mart offers full-time salaried management regular pay for 90 days and an additional 6 weeks of unpaid leave after the 12 weeks of FMLA unpaid leave is exhausted. Adopting parents and fathers are eligible for 14 days of paid parental leave. Part-time employees are eligible only for FMLA leave. Both full- and part-time employees may also use any accrued personal time and vacation days.

2. Exxon Mobil ($32,520,000,000)

Exxon Mobil did not respond to requests for comment.

3. Chevron ($19,241,000,000)

According to Chevron’s site, “Chevron doesn’t have a Maternity Leave. That’s because the time you need away from work is covered under several Chevron leaves and policies, depending on your circumstances.” Those leaves include short-term and long-term disability, vacation days, Chevron Family Leave (up to six months of leave in a 12-month period), and paid personal leave. Chevron did not respond with more specifics. 

4. Berkshire Hathaway ($19,872,000,000)

Berkshire Hathaway is a massive holding company helmed by Warren Buffett. The subsidiaries—which include Dairy Queen, Oriental Trading, Fruit of the Loom, and many more—all have their own policies. When the New Republic called Berkshire Hathaway to ask about paid leave policies, we were given the number of Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies, which handles the policies for the small number of corporate Berkshire Hathaway employees. A vice president of human resources at Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies told the New Republic that BHHC was “not interested in being represented” on this website.

5. Apple ($39,510,000,000)

Expectant mothers at Apple get up to four paid weeks off before delivery and 14 weeks afterwards, with the possibility of more depending on medical circumstances. Non-birth parents—including fathers—get six weeks. Apple is one of many Silicon Valley companies with generous paid leave policies. 

6. General Motors ($3,949,000,000)

“GM covers the delivery of a child under its paid disability leave policies. Typically, this provides 6 to 8 weeks of paid time off (full pay) depending on the method of delivery (normal delivery versus C Section),” wrote GM spokesperson Lynda Messina in an email to the New Republic. “The employee also has the ability to take other time off which may be paid or unpaid such as FMLA, vacation, and dependent care leave.”

7. Phillips 66 ($4,762,000,000)

Spokesperson Dennis Nuss told the New Republic, "We do not have a policy specific to maternity or paternity leave. Phillips 66 currently provides FMLA, STD and 12 months of unpaid personal leave for all eligible employees for various eligibility reasons including maternity." But according to the energy company's site Phillips 66 “does not guarantee an employee a job at the end of Personal Leave.”

8. General Electric ($15,233,000,000)

As of April 2015, GE provides eligible salaried U.S. employees—including fathers—with up to six weeks of paid leave following a birth or adoption plus four weeks of unpaid leave.

9. Ford Motor ($3,187,000,000)

Spokesperson Becky Sanch wrote in an email to the New Republic, “Normally for a birth of a child a physician certifies disability for up to 6 weeks post-delivery for a normal birth and up to eight weeks post-delivery for a cesarean birth. This 6 or 8 week period is a paid absence.” That disability absence runs concurrently with the FMLA leave. “Up to the first 12 weeks of a maternity or paternity leave count against the employees FMLA eligibility,” wrote Sanch. “The law does not require the company to pay an employee while on leave, but the company will continue to provide existing health care coverage for the remaining FMLA time when the leave is taken in conjunction with the birth or placement of a child for adoption on foster care.”

10. CVS Health ($4,644,000,000)

 CVS Health did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2013, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, The New York Times published a list of the paid leave policies of some well-known American employers. Of the current top ten Fortune 500 companies that were also on Times’ list, only GE appears to have increased its paid leave policy since 2013.

Most of the above plans lag far behind developed nations—and behind proposals from the major Democratic candidates for president, who, in line with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposed FAMILY Act, have announced plans for 12 weeks of paid leave.

Last week, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio announced his own plan, which calls for tax credits to encourage business to provide between four and twelve weeks of paid family leave. Meanwhile, presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and other conservatives argue that businesses should be allowed to decided whether or not to offer paid family leave, and that marketplace competition will inspire them to provide better benefits to attract better talent. But talent retention doesn’t appear to be a concern of massive companies like those on this list, especially those that have thousands of low-level hourly employees in addition to full-time, salaried corporate employees.

Companies that offer paid family leave policies should be applauded, but their employees are still only a fraction of American workers: Only 12 percent of the private workforce has access to paid leave through their employer, according to the Department of Labor. Without federal oversight, much of America’s workforce will still be left with only the unpaid bare minimum.

This article has been updated.