The week after Labor Day, many workers are dragging their feet to the office.
Now imagine making the trek in to work with twin baby girls.
Alyssa Palomino, a Schools Financial Credit Union employee, went back to work Tuesday with 8-week-old Brielynn and Mayana. Schools Financial offers a unique employee benefit: After taking maternity and paternity leave, new parents are encouraged to bring their infants to work every day until the babies turn 6 months old (or start to crawl).
“It was one of the reasons I was interested in coming over here,” Palomino said. “I knew we were going to start a family at some point, and a huge benefit was being able to bring our babies to work for six months.”
The babies-at-work program has been in effect since 2001. Brielynn and Mayana are the 129th and 130th babies to participate. And while mothers are more likely to be the primary caretaker for newborns, nearly 20 percent of the participants in the program have been fathers working for the credit union.
“Even though you get to have time off under the law and all that, some people can’t afford to take off as much time as others,” Schools Financial Credit Union VP of Human Resources Lisa Mackay said. “So they end up being forced to come back to work sooner than they would want, and [have] to put their child in daycare. This gives them the option to come back to work, but still be able to stay with their baby.”
Brielynn and Mayana were relatively sleepy their first morning in the office. But it doesn’t take an early childhood expert to know that infants are often pretty noisy and demand a lot of attention. That’s OK, says Mackay.
“We know going in the employee is not going to be 100 percent productive. That is just part of the program, and it’s part of the intention of the program. It’s not a problem,” Mackay explained.
Other companies with generous benefits allow new parents to work from home for a period of time, or help moms and dads create flexible schedules. However, Schools Financial Credit Union is a financial institution dealing with sensitive information, so working from home is not an option.
Given that this is the case for employers in many industries, though, Mackay is surprised more companies have not created similar programs.
“I think it was the same immediate reaction when we started doing it: ‘Oh, it’s going to present all sorts of problems,’” Mackay said. “And it really hasn’t.”
As for Palomino? She said she’s back at work earlier than she would have been otherwise – and all things considered, pretty happy to be there.
“I was a little stressed out, but my husband was so sad to go to work today and not have the girls that it made it a little easier for me,” Palomino said. “At least I can have them with me – it takes the pressure off mom returning to work.”