Beyond PTO: Nebraska Companies Offering New Benefits to Parents

Nebraska-based businesses, large and small, are identifying unique ways to help the parents on their staff be the best at their jobs. They all share the same sentiment — it simply makes sense.

Hudl’s Building of Epic Support

Of the more monumental moves by a Nebraska-based company, Hudl recently opened the doors to its own on-site child care facility. The Lincoln-based tech company took matters into its own hands when its workforce increasingly needed child care services.

When more and more team members were sharing news of new additions to their families, Hudl executives were taking notice.

“Over the past couple of years, we realized, wow, we are starting to evolve and grow as a company. We need to be more thoughtful about how we think about child care,” said Mark Ketcham, VP of operations at Hudl.

Operated by Primrose Schools, the facility is located at the Hudl headquarters at 600 P St. in Lincoln. Interest is high among employees, with waitlists for some of the younger age groups.

Kari Schmitz, legal counsel with Hudl, noted that it was a bold move for the company, but there is hope that other businesses in the community will follow suit.

- Advertisement -

“I feel like this is going to have a domino effect for the community,” she said. “I think there were a lot of businesses that were considering doing something similar to this. They were just afraid to really be the first ones to jump in and do it.”

Inside the Primrose School at Hudl, the company’s on-site child care facility. (Photo courtesy of Hudl)
Inside the Primrose School at Hudl, the company’s on-site child care facility. (Photo courtesy of Hudl)

The Hudl team is cognizant that such a big undertaking is not in the wheelhouse of every business.

“This isn’t a one-size-fits-all for every business, for every community. But it gives you options and it starts a discussion of what they can do,” Schmitz said.

In addition to the facility, Hudl offers 14 weeks of parental leave for birthing parents and eight weeks for non-birthing and adopting parents. Additionally, it offers a $10,000 benefit to support fertility treatment.

Morale Booster at Mulhall’s

An idea that was formed when three staff members were pregnant, the Mulhall’s Infants at Work program allows parents to bring their infants to work until they are six months old or are mobile.

“The support programs that we offer were built out of a very visible need for parents to be able to continue their bonding with their little babies,” said Kayla Johnson, people ops manager at Mulhall’s. “We also wanted to support our team members not having to feel like they have to pick between work or family and we want to give them as much of an opportunity to prioritize both and not feel like they’re in a corner having to make a decision.”

Mulhall’s put on a graduation ceremony for its “Sprouts” - babies that participated in the company’s Infants at Work program. (Photo courtesy of Mulhall’s)
Mulhall’s put on a graduation ceremony for its “Sprouts” – babies that
participated in the company’s Infants at Work program. (Photo courtesy of Mulhall’s)

Designated sleeping spaces and a few supplies were all it took to implement the program and the babies brought a bonus: a jump in morale.

“It has massively created a positive impact on our culture,” Johnson said. “Both our Fort and Maple locations are open-office concept, so it’s nearly impossible to not hear the chuckles or collective ‘aww’ when we hear a baby’s hiccups.”

Another unexpected benefit to the company was reduced turnover of parents.

“When I presented the Infants at Work program, I loved the building of it. It was so much fun to think about how our team members could be experiencing parenthood while at work,” she said. “It was just a really beautiful thing to be creative on. And it’s amazing to see the impact.”

Ervin & Smith Builds Common-Sense Policy

Ervin & Smith believes welcoming an infant into your family doesn’t have to be detrimental to your finances. The marketing agency now offers 12 weeks paid parental leaves, versus its previous offering of unpaid time off.

“[Our employees] don’t have to have that financial detriment, right at the beginning of a very, very exciting time for their lives,” said Brittany Wozny, CFO.

The 12 weeks of unpaid leave covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act does not cover workers employed at businesses with less than 50 employees, such as Ervin & Smith. This spurred the company to look into what was financially feasible for parental leave benefits.

“When you think about the impact to a small business of a program like this, financially, we were planning on paying these folks to do their work anyways,” Wozny said. “Yes, we have to figure out how we’re going to get the work done. And that might mean that we need to hire someone in a flexible role to be able to come in and support us or other team members are supporting by taking on the work, but that doesn’t feel like it should be the employee having to support the company financially in that way.”

Support for working parents goes beyond the leave, with the leadership making a conscious effort to keep schedules flexible.

“We’re wanting to create a workplace that is the best it can possibly be for folks,” said Leanne Prewitt, president. “We have a candid culture of caring folks who want to support each other in every way possible. And we want to create that environment, not just through our words, we want it to be through our actions and policy as well.”

Crafting a Policy

Business owners may wonder what the starting point is for improving employee benefits for working parents: what are the legal implications and what is truly beneficial?

Bobbie, a manufacturer of baby formula, is working to create better synergy between parenthood and career. The company created a handbook entitled the “Take Our Leave Playbook,” which details its own parental leave policy for any company to emulate.

In a statement to MBJ, Sarah Hardy, COO and co-founder of Bobbie said:

“When I joined Bobbie as co-founder, what personally drove me was the opportunity to create a workplace that authentically supports parents by allowing them to thrive, personally and professionally. Paid leave is a critical element of that — that’s why we launched our 12-month parental leave policy that allows parents to return to work on their own terms. But we know we can’t move the needle alone, which is why we open-sourced the policy, showing other companies all of our cards, and giving them the tools to do the same.”

There are important considerations to make when crafting a policy. Employers should adhere to the Pregnant Workers Fairness and PUMP Act, which includes requirements for employers to not only provide reasonable accommodations for nursing mothers to pump breastmilk but also enough break time to do so. The PWFA is similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The PWFA requires an employee to put the employer on notice of the employee’s limitations,” said Baird Holm Partner Kelli Lieurance. “The PWFA allows either the employee or the employee’s representative to communicate those limitations to the employer.”

Lieurance noted that employers should be mindful of the fairness of leave policies, as they can be at risk of a discrimination claim under Title VII.

“Instead of having different maternity and paternity leave policies, many employers establish a short-term disability leave policy, under which anyone (male or female) with a similar short-term disability (whether pregnancy, knee surgery, etc.) gets similar paid leave,” Lieurance said. “Then the employer offers a separate parental leave policy, which would apply equally to men and women for bonding with the child (such as four weeks of paid leave).”

Local insurance provider Breeze offers a short-term disability policy with additional coverage geared toward parental leave, aiming to provide further income protection. Called Leave by Breeze, the product was launched last year and can be offered as an alternative to FMLA.

“That’s one of the great things about it is that you don’t have to be subject to FMLA to be able to offer this,” said Colin Nabity, CEO and co-founder of Breeze. “We have a lot of smaller businesses that are under 50 employees that purchase these types of policies. And what it’s allowing employers to do is take a traditional group disability insurance policy and turn it into a pretty competitive and attractive benefit.”

Claire Brown, child & family wellbeing coordinator for The Wellbeing Partners, said asking employees what support they are looking for is a good place to start.

“Many workplaces start by creating an employee resource group to help identify needs and examine possible supports,” Brown said.

She said employers can also offer opportunities for peer support and comradery in the workplace. In addition, The Wellbeing Partners offers family wellness programs, which can include on-site or virtual education, 1-on-1 coaching or print and video resources.

“These opportunities allow parents and caregivers to receive support while at work, which decreases their overall stress, protects their time with family outside of work hours, and in turn, increases overall productivity,” she said. 

Above all, employers offering opportunities for feedback and simply compassion can make great inroads in crafting a policy that makes sense.


See our other stories in this Focus Section for Working Parents:

Child Care in Nebraska: How Community Support Can Make a Difference

The ‘Fourth Trimester’: The Importance of Continued Care After Birth