CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Duke Energy for the first time is offering its employees fully paid parental leave – totaling six weeks – to bolster work-family balance and help attract and retain highly skilled workers.
The new benefit, effective Jan. 1, catapults Duke Energy to near the front of the pack among the nation's largest electric utilities, most of which do not offer dedicated paid parental leave.
Under Duke Energy's new benefit – available to both mothers and fathers – an employee can start the six-week paid leave any time within the first 16 weeks after the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child.
A birth mother can take a total of at least 12 weeks' paid time off: at least six weeks through the company's existing, pregnancy-related short-term disability benefit, followed by six additional weeks under the new parental leave benefit.
"Paid parental leave will give Duke Energy employees important quality time to bond with their new children without the financial pressure of having to immediately return to work. That's good for our employees and their children," said Melissa Anderson, Duke Energy executive vice president and chief human resources officer.
"Coupled with our other work-family benefits, paid parental leave also will help us recruit and retain the next generation of highly skilled workers," she added.
The company began seriously exploring the possibility of adding paid parental leave to its benefits package during the past two years in response to strong employee interest and growing competition among companies for the best workers, Anderson said.
Outside the electric utility sector, Duke Energy joins a relatively small group of U.S. companies – across all industries – that offer paid parental leave.
Only 21 percent of American companies provide paid maternity leave, and only 17 percent provide paid paternity leave, according to a 2015 benefits survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Duke Energy's new benefit also is somewhat unique in another way: Some companies that do offer paid parental leave make a distinction between maternal and paternal benefits, or between the "primary caregiver" and "nonprimary caregiver" parent – sometimes giving either the father or the nonprimary caregiver less paid time off.
Duke Energy makes no such distinctions, instead giving the full benefit to either parent.
Duke Energy's other family-focused employee benefits include a $5,000 reimbursement for costs associated with adopting a child; paid time off to care for a sick or injured child, parent or other family member; and 10 hours of paid time off each year to volunteer in an employee's child's school, or any other school.
Duke Energy employs about 29,000 workers – most of them in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
Duke Energy, one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States, supplies and delivers electricity to approximately 7.4 million customers in the Southeast and Midwest, representing a population of approximately 24 million people. The company also distributes natural gas to more than 1.5 million customers in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Its commercial business operates a growing renewable energy portfolio and transmission infrastructure across the United States.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is an S&P 100 Stock Index company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com.
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Media contact: Dave Scanzoni