Goldman Sachs has offered its employees worldwide an extra 10 days of leave to help them care for children or elderly relatives affected by the coronavirus.
The US bank told employees last night that they were entitled to the extra time off to handle the “unique personal circumstances related to the profound impact of Covid-19”.
Bentley de Beyer, who took over as head of human capital management at Goldman in January, sent a memo to staff telling them about the additional leave. Schools have been closed as a result of the pandemic, placing additional strain on parents, and older people are more susceptible to severe cases of the respiratory disease.
“To support employees, we will now offer 10 days of family leave to our people globally to care for family members, as needed, due to Covid-19-related illness or childcare needs, including homeschooling,” de Beyer wrote in the memo.
The move may put pressure on other firms to follow suit, starting with Goldman’s Wall Street peers and rivals. Last year, Goldman was one of a number of financial firms to start offering generous parental leave and fertility benefits, as a trend toward new family-friendly policies took hold in the industry.
Also during 2019, improved parental leave policies were introduced at US insurer MassMutual and UK asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen. However, most of Goldman’s Wall Street rivals have not yet met its bar on time off for childcare, according to statistics compiled by Bloomberg.
Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: “It’s very encouraging to see a large company like Goldman Sachs offering additional paid family leave to its staff where they have caring responsibilities during this pandemic. Many people’s domestic lives are deeply affected by the virus, making it much harder for them to juggle work and family obligations.
“A lot of people will have financial worries if they are forced to take unpaid leave to care for dependents, although it’s true that many businsses don’t have limitless funds to provide extra paid leave. Where it is possible to be flexible and grant extra paid leave, however, employers will reap considerable benefits in terms of staff loyalty and engagement.”
Richard Fox, an employment partner at law firm Kingsley Napley, said he was “not surprised” by Goldman’s move and “in many ways I would applaud it”. He added: “I suspect Goldmans are also being realistic. Anyone caught up in this scenario is going to have to move very quickly to make arrangements and devote time to sort it out… Goldmans’ employees may not be able to rely upon their usual, or indeed any support networks (paid or unpaid) as may have been possible in more ‘ordinary’ circumstances.”
He added that in the current crisis, it is unlikely that any bank would prevent staff taking the time they needed to cope with personal issues related to the virus.
He said: “As the banks got such a drubbing reputationally after the last financial crisis, one would think this new policy will not do them any harm moving forward. They do not want to be seen (again) on the wrong side of history after this crisis is over.”
In Goldman’s memo, de Beyer wrote: “We recognise our people are dealing with unique personal circumstances related to the profound impact of Covid-19, whether it be protecting their health, caring for a child whose school or daycare services are unavailable, adjusting to a new routine, tending to an ill or elderly family member, or managing feelings of isolation that can come from physical distancing.”
The extra 10 days of leave apply “for 2020”, she added, and come “in addition to the firm’s many other benefits and wellness offerings, including other leave programs, that can add relief to employees during this period.”