SunCommon, Ben & Jerry's among companies that offer paid family leave

Published: Apr. 11, 2019 at 7:35 AM EDT
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Montpelier lawmakers are debating a paid family leave law that faces opposition from Gov. Phil Scott. But some companies in the Green Mountain State already offer a paid plan as a perk to their employees.

"It's hard having a newborn, whether it's your first time or your fifth time I'm sure," said Kristin DeDiana, a mother of two who works at SunCommon in Waterbury.

Because of the company's paid leave program, DeDiana was able to take time off worry-free with her newborn.

"It's hard to say how much I would have missed out on, but I think a lot," she said.

DeDiana is one of 21 SunCommon employees who has used the company's paid family leave.

"Twenty of the people who have taken advantage of that have come back to work for us," said Duane Peterson, SunCommon's co-president.

In fact, it’s not just moms using the parental paid time off, they’ve had six mothers and 15 fathers use the program over the last seven years.

SunCommon gives its full-time employees four weeks paid leave on top of accrued PTO. Moms are also eligible to receive short-term leave benefits at no cost to them.

Peterson says it’s good for business by offering paid parental leave and saves the company money. He says people come back and that limits recruiting and training costs.

"They've had some time with their kid and now they are ready to come back to work and give this their all," Peterson said.

But SunCommon isn't the only place in Vermont helping parents by paying them to take time off. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington just started offering its employees six weeks of paid time off.

Ben & Jerry's offers mothers a total of 16 weeks paid time off and fathers get eight weeks.

DeDiana says she would like to see the state adopt a similar policy. She hopes the state gives moms 12 weeks paid time off which she thinks could help with child care in the state.

"Then more people would have access to quality child care, so I think it’s good for everyone," she said.

Governor Scott supports a voluntary program and will push the Senate to adopt his plan. The House missed the 100 votes it needed to make the mandatory paid family leave veto-proof.