As part of its effort to increase family-focused employee benefits, Noodles & Co. is adding an enhanced layer of time-off for new moms that goes beyond paid maternity leave.
The so-called “phase-out, phase-in” program, which starts Jan. 1, 2019, allows expectant and postpartum mothers to work an 80 percent schedule the four weeks before and the four weeks after maternity leave.
The kicker? Qualifying employees still receive 100-percent pay. The new perk, meant to be a buffer to help with the transition from pregnancy to motherhood, comes in addition to getting six weeks of paid maternity leave.
The perk is available to employees with the titles of “assistant general manager” and above, the company said.
“Phasing out of maternity leave allows mothers time to balance their work and personal lives and creates a work environment where employees can thrive,” the company said in a statement released Tuesday.
CEO Dave Boennighausen said the “phase-out, phase-in” program is unavailable elsewhere in the fast-casual industry and reflects the brand’s “commitment to nourishing and inspiring” employees.
“Our team members work hard for us, and we want to express our gratitude by offering top-of-the-line benefits that support them in and out of the workplace,” he said in a statement.
The transitional time-off program is part of the chain’s [email protected] initiative aimed at making Noodles the most rewarding place to work in the industry.
Earlier this year, the Broomfield, Colo.-based company said it would provide six weeks of fully paid maternity leave and two weeks of paternity/bonding leave to eligible employees.
The company also introduced adoption assistance of $10,000 (limited to assistant general managers and above who have worked a minimum of 12 consecutive months), student-loan debt assistance of $1,000 per year to general managers, Veterans Day paid time off for veterans, breast milk shipment payment during business travel, and flexible time off for corporate team members.
The company also takes a preventive approach to wellness with Balance Bucks, a perk for corporate employees, general managers and multi-unit managers. The program allows eligible Noodles employees to be reimbursed up to $650 for engaging in activities that promote a balanced lifestyle. Qualifying programs include gym membership fees, yoga, birthing classes, and hiking gear.
The chain, known for its internationally-themed cooked-to-order pasta dishes, was founded in 1995. The company employs 9,700 workers, including about 80 corporate employees.
Noodles joins a growing number of restaurant companies adding family leave enhancements to attract and keep employees in a tough labor market.
In 2017, Yum Brands, operator of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, began offering birth mothers working for the company’s corporate office 18 weeks of fully paid time away from work, including six weeks of baby bonding time.
This year, Eataly, which has five locations in North America, said all employees that have been with the company one consecutive year can take up to eight weeks of paid leave following childbirth or adoption. The perk is offered to any employee, regardless of how many hours they work per week. The program offers 100 percent of pay for the first four weeks off and 60 percent for the second four weeks.
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