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Discovery Expands U.S. Family Leave Benefits

Discovery Communications has expanded its employee leave benefits, extending paid parental leave to 12 weeks and offering the same benefit to employees who act as family caregivers.

The new benefits will kick in on Jan. 1, 2017, Discovery said, adding that they place the programmer "among a small number of companies choosing to enhance paid family leave in the U.S., where the absence of national regulation has made America the only industrialized nation in the world without requirements for the benefit."

Across the U.S., only 13 percent of people have access to paid family leave, according to parental leave advocacy group MomsRising. Moreover, among new mothers who work, 33 percent take no formal leave at all, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

“These paid family leave benefits further our commitment to support employees both at work and at home, where we want to ensure they have the flexibility to spend the time they need -- and deserve -- with their families during important periods of transition,” said Adria Alpert Romm, chief human resources and global diversity officer. “This new policy marks a proud moment for Discovery and is something we hope will retain and attract great talent for many years to come."

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The paid parental leave benefit applies to mothers and fathers in cases of birth, adoption or foster care placement and stretches what is currently four weeks of leave paid at 100% to 12 weeks. In some cases, employees can further extend their parental leave by combining it with short-term disability leave and up to two weeks of vacation.

In terms of maternity leave, that means the total benefit now maxes out at 20-22 consecutive weeks, while total paternity leave now maxes out at 14 consecutive weeks.

The new paid caregiver leave benefit expands the definition of "family" beyond children, spouses and parents to qualified domestic partners, siblings, parents-in-law and grandparents, Discovery said.

Employees who serve as caregivers to a qualified family member in need -- "whether aging, ill or otherwise impacted by a serious health condition," Discovery said -- will now also qualify for 12 weeks of paid leave. With an option to add up to two weeks of vacation time, caregiver leave will max out at 14 consecutive weeks.

The new parental and caregiver leave policy allows employees to take their weeks consecutively or divide them up as needed over the course of a 12-month period.

Discovery said the new leave policy joins other "family-focused benefits" already available to its more than 3,000 U.S. employees, including an adoption and surrogacy assistance program offering up to $10,000 reimbursement for adoption- and surrogacy-related expenses; an on-site childcare facility at corporate headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.; and onsite wellness centers for employees and their dependents across a number of U.S. office locations.