General Mills to offer 20 weeks paid maternity leave to employees

Parental benefits are getting better at the Golden Valley company.
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General Mills workers in the Twin Cities will now be able to benefit from longer paid parental leave under changes announced on Wednesday.

The Golden Valley-based food giant confirmed it is expanding benefits offered to U.S.-based employees, including the estimated 5,000 it employs in Minnesota.

In an effort to "modernize benefits to better align with the needs of an ever-evolving workforce," the company will provide longer paid time off periods for new parents and mothers.

From Jan. 1, new birth mothers will get 18-20 weeks fully paid time off, while parental leave for fathers, partners and adoptive parents will get 12 weeks paid time off.

It will also create a new benefit, called "Caregiver Leave," that will see workers given two weeks paid leave for the care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition.

Bereavement leave has also been extended, and is now up to four weeks following the death of an immediate family member.

Jacqueline Williams-Roll, General Mills' chief HR officer, said the changes were made after extensive discussions with employees about balancing their work and home commitments.

"Out of those discussions, we developed a strategy to focus on these moments when employees really need support the most," she said.

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The new benefits apply to both salaried and non-union production workers in the U.S.

The move by General Mills is similar to parental leave benefits enacted by other major companies in recent years. Netflix, for example, recently started offering a whole year paid maternity leave for its employees.

In February, the Washington Post wrote that the U.S. is the only country in the developed world that does not mandate employers offer paid leave for new mothers.

It notes that new moms in Finland are entitled to up to 3 years of paid leave, while in Norway it's 91 weeks, in Canada it's a year, and in the U.K. it's up to 39 weeks.

Under America's Family and Medical Leave Act, new parents can legally take up to 12 weeks off – unpaid – while still keeping their job. That's provided the company they work for employs more than 50 people.

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