Debate over gender equality and paid parental leave has gained traction over the last few months in both presidential nominees’ camps. Central to the argument is that parents, especially those earning a minimum wage, shouldn’t have to choose between their children and their jobs. Secretary Hillary Clinton has proposed that employees receive up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, recouping at least two-thirds of their regular wages. Her opponent, Donald Trump, has his own maternity leave program in the works, the Washington Post reported this month, but it’s only applicable to mothers (tough luck, Dads).
We will now have the ability to compensate all of our employees equitably, competitively, and professionally.
Thankfully, not everyone has to wait in suspense until November; according to Eater, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) in New York City has just announced that, come 2017, all full-time employees who have worked more than one year are entitled to paid parental leave. This means that employees in the front and back of house, from dishwasher to Maitre d’, will receive 100 percent of their wages for the first four weeks of time off, and 60 percent for a second four weeks. It isn’t just limited to mothers either—fathers and domestic partners are included, and the benefits provide support for newly adopted children and newborns alike.
Danny Meyer has already made waves and garnered recent praise for his Hospitality Included program, which has eliminated tipping in all 13 of his restaurants this year, raising and stabilizing the income levels of 1,800 employees.
“We will now have the ability to compensate all of our employees equitably, competitively, and professionally,” Meyer said in an open letter last October.
Meyer is paving the road for fellow restaurant owners and employers to follow suit, by setting the bar for high for better business practices and fairer wages for employees, especially those earning a minimum wage. USHG’s parental leave plan has been in place since 2015 for corporate employees, but now at the restaurant level, it could be an especially groundbreaking move because it will create a more woman-friendly environment—as in, she won’t have to choose between her newborn and her job— and it opens up more advancement opportunities for mothers in an otherwise male-dominated workplace.
While Danny Meyer’s plan falls short of Clinton’s 12 week, all-inclusive vision, his bold move comes long before any better policies are in place. Hopefully, it will bring greater gender equality for food workers, clean some low-wage grime of the grease ceiling, and push other leaders in the restaurant industry to follow suit.
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