Oh, baby! Jill Niemann was just about nine months pregnant, getting ready for the impending arrival of baby number two, when she heard the big news. Land O’Lakes, Inc. had a special delivery for parents—an enhanced maternity leave and new parental leave.
"With my first baby, I used PTO and short-term disability to cover my leave. I was so excited to hear about this new leave," Jill says.
But the metaphorical stork wouldn’t be delivering this benefit until Dec. 1, 2015, which was about two weeks away, and Jill was due Dec. 10. The big question, and running joke around the office, quickly became—would baby wait?
It was certainly a delivery worth waiting for. The new parental leave offers new parents—birth moms, adoptive moms and new dads—two weeks of paid parental/baby bonding leave. In addition, new birth moms are eligible for an enhanced maternity leave of 8 weeks—a total of 10 weeks leave. And 136 new parents have already taken advantage.
"We listened to our employees," says Loren Heeringa, senior vice president and chief human resources officer. "They told us enhanced maternity leave and baby bonding time is important. Providing these benefits is one way we can really step up as an employer to support modern families’ needs."
Unforgettable (summer) time
Back at the Land O’Lakes dairy plant in Spencer, Wisconsin, Dec. 1 came and went without any sign of baby. Jill, a quality supervisor, had made it. But just barely. Her little guy, Jace, decided to make his appearance on Dec. 2.
Jill decided to use her parental leave eight months after Jace’s birthday—to give the family unforgettable summer time together.
"It was perfect," she says. "I used my maternity leave when baby Jace was born, but I’m taking the extra time this summer so our whole family can be together for two weeks. The maternity and parental leaves gave me unforgettable time with my entire family—time that is priceless!"
A dad’s leave to dote
Karl Israelsen, a research specialist with the WinField Answer Plot® team in the Pacific Northwest, and his wife had baby number two, a boy named Tate, on May 18, 2016.
"Tate arrived a little early and had to spend extra time in the hospital,” says Karl. “I got all my paperwork in and by the time it came back, Tate was ready to come home."
According to Karl, the fact that he could be home with the family helped everyone get back on their feet. Karl’s a new dad, but the two-week paid baby bonding time is for all parents. It’s just another way to recognize the importance of and meet the needs of today’s families.
"For me, the paid time away made such a difference for our family," he says. "I took my paid leave after the baby came. I was able to be with our three-year-old daughter, Kai, and my wife could focus on being with baby Tate. It gave us such peace of mind. And I learned he’s a pretty good one. Once he’s fed and changed, he’s a happy guy. Pretty good sleeper too!"
When it works best
Two years ago, before Dustin Yeik’s second daughter was born, he and his wife had decided they were looking for a change. He wanted to work for a company where he could work hard, make a difference and receive good benefits. Land O’Lakes was a perfect fit.
Dustin, an Agronomy Service Center (ASC), reaped those benefits when his third daughter, Josie, was born on Dec. 5, 2015.
"With our first two girls, I did take some time off, but it was all PTO. With Josie, I didn’t feel the pressure to get back to work to save my vacation time," he says. "Everyone was so supportive."
Dustin waited a bit, using his parental time a few weeks after Josie was born when it was good for the business and at home. But that’s okay because as Dustin learned, the two-week paid parental leave can be taken anytime within the first year of the child’s birth or arrival as long as it’s all taken at once. This flexibility gives new parents the option to use the time when it works best for them.
"Taking my leave a few weeks later meant I got to be home, help with lunches and just be around. It gave us great family time and helped us all get adjusted," says Dustin. "And Josie is such a good baby, it was good to be home with all the girls—in fact, I was tickled pink!"