Union Square Hospitality Group, the 13-restaurant New York City operator, will expand paid parental leave companywide to full-time workers of more than a year’s tenure as of Jan. 1, 2017, the company said Wednesday.
Erin Moran, USHG chief culture officer, said the program was piloted last year in the corporate office. It offers four weeks of 100-percent of base wages (40 hours or salary) for the first four weeks, and a second four weeks at 60-percent of base wages. Full-time employees of at least a year’s tenure will be eligible, she said.
The benefit is open to mothers, fathers and domestic partners for births and adoption, she said.
“It was important to us that we offer the same benefit to our hourly team members as to our salaried team members,” Moran told Nation’s Restaurant News.
USHG owns such restaurants as Maialino, Marta, The Modern and North End Grill, as well as the soon-to-reopen Union Square Café.
The program was piloted, beginning in early 2015, among 44 eligible employees at USHG’s corporate offices, with five taking advantage of the benefit, Moran said.
“We always had the aspiration of using that as a learning experience to understand the impact on our people and what it was like to implement the program,” Moran said. Some ideas for the leave came from the White House-sponsored United State of Women program earlier this year.
About 55 percent of USHG workers are eligible for the program, she said, driven mostly by the year-limit tenure number. About 85 percent of USHG’s workforce is full-time, she said.
The new paid parental leave program was added on the heels of USHG’s Hospitality Included program, in which the company set out to eliminate tipping and adjust menu prices to reflect the cost of the dining experience. So far, four USHG restaurants have introduced Hospitality Included: Marta, Maialino, The Modern and North End Grill. The program includes a weekly revenue-sharing program for front-of-house workers to stabilize take-home pay.
“When we introduced Hospitality Included last year, it was our desire and goal to professionalize our industry and to be a company where people could advance their careers,” Moran said.
Moran said paid parental leave is “the continuation of that emphasis of being a place where people can grow their careers. We realize people’s lives evolve over time, and we want people to have full lives both inside and outside of work.”
She said the company believes the paid parental leave program will allow USHG to attract and retain some of the most talented professionals in the industry.
“I’m incredibly proud of our overall benefits to our people,” said Moran, who has been with USHG for about three years. “We really couldn’t quantify the return on investment. We know who is eligible, but we don’t know their life choices. We have no idea what we will spend on this program. It is our strong belief that this will positively impact retention and help us to recruit better.
“It’s really challenging to make the business case, but we’re taking a leap of faith and believe it is the right thing to do for our people,” Moran added.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, the national organization of restaurant workers, and Family Values @ Work, a network of family leave and paid sick day advocates in 24 states, commended USHG for its paid parental leave program.
Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, said in statement Wednesday: “We applaud USHG for being a pioneer on paid leave in the restaurant industry, as it has been on pay.
“USHG’s paid parental leave policy will allow their employees to be more productive while being better providers and caregivers to their families,” Bravo added.
Moran said USHG anticipated the paid parental leave program would be “a competitive advantage for us” in foodservice hiring and retention.
“I am passionate about people having a full life inside and outside of work,” said Moran, a single mother of two. “And I am hopeful that other hospitality peers will follow suit. We do believe it’s important for people to be able to take paid time to be at home with their new family additions.”