In an expansion of its family leave policy, Levi Strauss and Co. now guarantees eight weeks of paid leave for certain workers in situations where their family members require extra care.
The new policy will apply to half of the company’s U.S. staff: corporate employees who work at least 20 hours per week, and retail employees who work at least 30. It’ll allow those workers to take off two weeks at a time to take care of an ill spouse, domestic partner, parent or stepparent, or child or stepchild under 18.
It also “works in tandem with the Family and Medical Leave Act,” said Levi’s vp of global people operations and rewards Scott White. “For example, an employee using the paid family leave benefit for the full eight weeks may take up to four weeks of additional unpaid leave, for a total of 12 weeks.”
The change was a response to “strong feedback” from workers who expressed the need for this kind of benefit, according to White.
He also pointed out that there’s a specific need for paid family leave among the demographic that makes up most of Levi’s U.S.-based workforce.
“Fifty percent of our population is made up of individuals between the ages of 36 and 55—part of the ‘sandwich generation’ that is more likely to be caring for both a child and an elder at the same time,” White said. “To support the well-being of our employees, we have to support their ability to care for their immediate family members, whether that is a child, spouse, parent or domestic partner, without worrying about their job or their paycheck.”
Paid family leave became a priority for Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh when his own family faced the realities of caring for aging parents, according to Fortune Magazine, which first reported the news.
“Some of the most important investments we make are in the well-being of our employees,” said Bergh in a statement. “We are introducing paid family leave to offer our employees the flexibility to care for ill family members without worrying about the stability of their job or finances.”
And for retail, which often lags behind in terms of worker benefits, the new policy is an “industry-leading approach,” said Katherine Eyster, director of strategic partnerships and policy initiatives at the National Partnership for Women and Families. Levi’s has worked with the organization for several years on issues related to workplace equity, including its new paid family leave policy and a new parental leave policy that rolled out in 2016.
“What really stands out about this policy is that it applies to eligible salaried and hourly workers,” Eyster said. And with eight weeks of leave available, it’s one of the most robust policies that have been rolled out in recent years. “We hope to see more companies move in this direction but it’s moving, frankly, too slowly,” she added. “We know this is a benefit that people are increasingly going to need in the workforce.”
The move isn’t surprising for the brand. Last fall while onstage at Adweek’s Brandweek, Levi’s CMO Jennifer Sey told the audience that it makes sense for the clothing company to take a political stance. “Levi’s has been a symbol of democracy and inclusion for just about forever,” Sey said, calling blue jeans “the ultimate form of self-expression.”
“We continue to stand for what the best of America is,” Sey said.