A lot of companies say that they put people first, but Firewood actually practices what it preaches. That’s especially true now that I’m expecting, and not just because Firewood supplies yummy snacks to keep my growing baby happy (and curb those nasty nausea spells). Since they announced their amazing maternity plan in March, I’ve become less stressed about this next chapter in my life—and can’t wait to come back after my leave!
According to an article on the Society for Human Resources Management’s website published in March 2017, the percentage of US employers offering some type of replacement maternity pay has increased to 58%. However, the number of employers offering full pay has gone down to 6%. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees leave time and extends job protections, but only if certain conditions are met. There is, however, no federal requirement for employers to offer payment to employees, even supplemental payment, during the time they take off to bond with their babies.
Since Firewood is based in California, employees are entitled to pregnancy disability leave plus a bonding leave under the California Family Rights Act.
Here’s the breakdown: Partial pay for the disability portion comes from the California Paid Family Leave program from the California Employment Development Department (EDD). And a new San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance went into effect this year for the bonding portion, requiring employers to provide “supplemental compensation” for six weeks (in addition to what EDD pays) to anyone who’s covered by the Paid Family Leave benefit—essentially, new parents may get nearly 100% of their salary for the six weeks of the bonding portion only.
That new California Parental Leave Act that went into effect this year also ensures that employees “who earn less than one-third of the state’s average quarterly wage [($5,229.98 in 2018)] will be paid 70% of their weekly wages for up to six weeks;” it previously only paid up to 55% of weekly wages.
Partial pay from EDD for the disability part of the leave plus six weeks of almost fully paid bonding leave might not sound like a lot, but when I first started at Firewood it sounded like heaven. Previously a contractor, full-time freelancer, or full-time employee based out of the East Bay, I was thrilled that I’d be working at a company based in a city that offered some type of supplemental pay. And that was before I was even pregnant (or knew I was pregnant).
My first few months of expectant motherhood also coincided with my first few months at Firewood—it turns out, when I started at Firewood, I was already pregnant. Surprise! Combining regular bouts of morning sickness with new-member mixers and client meetings required a level of acting I didn’t know I could master.
Once I broke the news to my team, HR, and the rest of the office, I couldn’t have felt more supported. Everyone encouraged me to take breaks if needed, offered up snack and potty breaks to ensure I felt comfortable, and consistently asked how I was doing.
About four months into my pregnancy, I attended my first Firewood All Hands. I’d heard good things about the event. Every All Hands, our co-founders, Lanya and Juan Zambrano, have been notorious for announcing some new, much-coveted benefit—and while I didn’t want to get my hopes up, I thought to myself, Wouldn’t it be lovely if they expanded their maternity leave?
When the screen popped up announcing four months of fully paid maternity leave for mothers and 10 weeks for fathers, the tears were immediate. The small group of individuals who knew I was expecting (in the time since I’ve joined Firewood alone, the company has grown to more than 258 employees, so needless to say I was still in the process of meeting a lot of people) immediately offered their congratulations. My manager even messaged me from across the room and said, “I’m crying for you!”
The next day, Lanya came over to my desk and personally told me how excited she was for me—the tears started flowing again.
Working at Firewood is pretty great, maternity leave or not. While it’s rare that employers offer any type of paid maternity leave, even in California, it turns out that we’re in good company: Facebook, PayPal, Pinterest, Airbnb, and LinkedIn also offer 16 weeks.
What that really means is that I’ve got one less concern heading into the birth of my first child, and I can continue to focus on creating great copy for our amazing clients.
That concern is a distraction I didn’t know I had. How much PTO could I save up until the birth? Would I be ready to go back to work after all the partially paid weeks were over? Who would watch our newborn? Could we afford day care? But once that weight was lifted, I was able to fully invest in taking care of myself and accomplishing everything I needed to at the office.
Many employees aren’t so lucky, even here in San Francisco. But at Firewood, I know that I have the support system to get me through my third trimester, and into the first stages of motherhood. And knowing that, it’ll be easy (well, I say that now) to come back in December.