Goldman Sachs recently joined the ranks of a small handful of companies offering a unique benefit for nursing mothers.
The global investment bank and financial-services firm announced earlier this month that it will cover the cost for employees who are traveling for work to ship breastmilk home. The benefit applies to mothers who work in both the U.S. and U.K., making Goldman Sachs the first company to offer such a service in the latter country. U.K. workers will be reimbursed for shipping the milk, while in the U.S. the company will deliver a freezing kit to the employees’ hotel rooms before they arrive and then use a courier service to transport the expressed milk.
The approach isn’t completely novel domestically–EY started its breastmilk-shipping program more than a decade ago, and other big names like Twitter, IBM and Accenture have also adopted similar initiatives–though it is still not among the more-common parental benefits at most companies. In a recent survey of its membership, the National Business Group on Health found that 23 percent of respondents pay for breastmilk shipping, says LuAnn Heinen, an NBGH vice president.
Heinen anticipates that number will continue to grow, as companies look to entice talent in this tight labor market with benefits that appeal to the work/life balance.
“It’s been a little bit of an arm’s race the last couple of years already,” she says. “Many companies in our membership have upgraded [parental benefits] to find that a competitor has done something a little bit better or added more.”
Heinen says breastmilk shipping can be a “valuable and much-appreciated” solution for moms who travel.
While some critics have argued that such programs could lure mothers back to work too soon, Heinen says most working moms make their return-to-work decision based on a range of other factors. For those for whom travel is a primary concern, some organizations–less than 5 percent of respondents in a recent NBGH survey–have instituted policies prohibiting required travel for new parents.
Still, breastmilk shipping certainly shouldn’t be a one-off perk, she adds, but rather should be part of a suite of parental policies and programs–starting with parental leave and continuing with flexible scheduling, support for nursing moms, childcare assistance, and financial and legal services. Other areas of focus can include support groups and manager training to cultivate a parent-friendly culture, as well as resources for physical and emotional wellbeing, and family-friendly corporate perks such as amusement-park discounts.
“One of the trends that we are definitely seeing is the growing number of companies that want to find ways to deliver family-friendly benefits as part of their efforts to attract and retain talent,” adds Candice Sherman, CEO of Northeast Business Group on Health. “And this initiative [from Goldman Sachs] certainly fits.”