If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you know how stressful it can be. Anything involving working closely with the general public comes with its downsides. On top of everything else, paid hourly workers in this field often don’t receive the same benefits and perks as the folks tucked away in corporate offices. Now, some Starbucks baristas say they want the same parental leave benefits as corporate. And, despite the fact that Starbucks is often regarded as a great place to work, it’s easy to understand their position.
Starbucks’ New Parental Leave Policy
Earlier this year, Starbucks announced a new parental leave policy that will go into effect in October at the beginning of their new fiscal year. The press release stated that any birth mother working at least 20 hours a week at one of their stores would be eligible to receive six weeks paid parental leave. They’ll receive 100 percent of their average pay during that time. They also announced a change for benefits for “non-store talent.”
“And, to be more competitive in our efforts to seek and retain non-store talent,” the press release stated, “any benefits-eligible non-store partner new parents – including spouses and domestic partners – who welcome a new child, by birth, foster or by adoption, will be eligible to take 12 weeks of leave paid at 100 percent of average pay.”
While the change was mostly lauded for its generosity, it’s pretty difficult to ignore the inequity of the policy. Some baristas feel that it isn’t right that the employees that “wear regular clothes” rather than an apron will receive 12 weeks of leave while baristas will receive just six. And, there is still no leave available to fathers or adoptive parents who work behind the counter, whereas those in corporate can enjoy 12 paid weeks of leave time.
Hourly Workers Generally Have Fewer Benefits
The unfortunate reality is that this new parental leave policy does go further for retail workers than is typical. Hourly workers are much less likely to enjoy paid leave benefits than salaried workers. Many parents return to work quickly after welcoming a new child, because the economic burden of making another choice would simply be too great. Recent data even suggests that nearly 25 percent of employed American mothers return to work less than two weeks after giving birth.
Nearly 25% of employed U.S. mothers return to work less than 2 weeks after giving birth.
The new policy does go further than is common, but the question is whether it goes far enough.
Baristas Are Speaking Out
Jess Svabenik, a Starbucks barista for eight years who is currently awaiting the arrival of her fourth child, recently spoke with Marie Claire about Starbucks’ new benefits, which she says mark the first time that in-store staff have received lesser benefits than corporate.
Svabenik, along with barista Kristen Picciolo, recently discussed the issue with Ron Crawford, VP of benefits for Starbucks, and VP of global policy and advocacy Zulima Espinel.
“They were kind of confused that we were there,” Svabenik told Marie Claire. “That’s the hardest part to process: That there are people who reap these kinds of benefits and aren’t interesting in passing them on to those in a lesser position.”
The next day, Picciolo spoke at the shareholders’ meeting.
“I flew to Seattle because, as a parent, I know how important it is to spend those first few months with your new baby,” she said. “Right now the in-store partners are not included in the new paid parental policy and I just want you to maybe reconsider and extent this crucial benefit to all employees.”
Kevin Johnson, who just became CEO of Starbucks earlier this month, thanked her for comments and congratulated her on the birth of her child. He then went on to explain a bit about how the decision was made. He also briefly reviewed some of the things Starbucks has done that go above and beyond the norm, like healthcare for part-time workers, the college achievement program, and recent wage increases. Johnson concluded by thanking her again for sharing her story and question and stated that they are always open to feedback from partners.
The non-profit PL+US (Paid Leave for the U.S.) has started an online petition to extend the corporate leave policy to all Starbucks employees.
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