Parenting leave

Land O’Lakes also increases paid leave time for new mothers and fathers

Wells Fargo & Co. got the headlines earlier this month, but it is not the only big company to expand paid parenting leave recently.

Land O’Lakes has increased maternity leave to 10 weeks paid time off for new mothers and up to two weeks paid time for fathers and adoptive parents. This new policy allows parents additional time with their child without having to worry about the financial cost associated with unpaid leave, said the Arden Hills-based farm-to-foods company that employs 13,000.

“In 2015, we began offering moms and dads paid parenting leave in addition to traditional paid leaves that are covered by short-term disability benefit programs,” a Land O’Lakes spokeswoman said in a prepared statement. “Based on [benefits consultant] Aon Hewitt benchmarking information we reviewed in 2015, we were at the forefront of offering this type of benefit to parents in our community.”

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which employs 20,000 in Minnesota, will offer up to 16 weeks paid leave. It also will allow workers to take up to five consecutive days off to care for a family member with a serious illness and up to five days a year to care for an adult.

The nation’s third-largest bank is part of an emerging trend among large firms to expand family leave.

“More employers are considering it every year, and numbers are rising every year,” David Delahanty, a partner with Aon Hewitt in Bloomington, told the Star Tribune this month.

The United States is the only major industrialized nation that doesn’t provide paid leave for new mothers and fathers. New York City and San Francisco recently passed laws mandating paid parental leave. Larger organizations are leading, although the percentage is still small, according to Aon Hewitt.

Neal St. Anthony

Economic development

Dayton focuses on minority participation

Gov. Mark Dayton last week appointed a new associate commissioner for the Office of Career and Business Opportunity within the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). She will focus on Minnesota’s high minority-unemployment rate.

Associate Commissioner Karen Francois has served as the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights director of employment equity since 2012 and its director of contract compliance since 2013.

Dayton this month also selected his deputy chief of staff, Shawntera Hardy, a black woman, to become DEED’s new commissioner. She replaces Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben who steps down this month to pursue other interests.

According to a DEED statement, the career and business opportunity office will focus on helping:

• Workers of color access training and resources needed to find good jobs and careers.

• Minority-owned businesses start and expand their businesses.

• The business community develop and adopt hiring and contracting practices that expand opportunity for minority workers and businesses.

• Identify and break down barriers to opportunities for employees and employers of color.

Dee DePass

Surviving retirement

Lower-wage Americans most fear inflation

Nearly half of Americans (47 percent) report being “very concerned” to “terrified” that the rising cost of living will crimp their retirement plans, according to a new study on Americans’ perceptions of the effects of inflation from Allianz Life Insurance of North America.

Among lower-income households of less than $50,000 per year, 65 percent say they are either “very worried” (41 percent) or “panicked” (22 percent) about the potential of having no annual pay raise on a fixed income. That group has seen their stagnant wages eroded by inflation since the 1980s while affluent Americans have seen the greatest growth in income from compensation and investments since the Great Recession of 2008-09.

Only half of those surveyed reported they received annual pay raises during their working years.

“This study highlights the potential psychological and fiscal impact of inflation on a person’s financial strategy,” said Katie Libbe, Allianz Life vice president of consumer insights. “As consumers move into retirement, they will not only need to consider how to make their income last for 30 years or more, but also how it can cover rising costs driven by inflation.”

According to Libbe, consumers may be overestimating future inflation and its effect on retirement plans. The average inflation rate Americans experienced over the last 20 years was 2.2 percent. Regardless, nearly a third worry they won’t be able to pay for life’s essentials. That jumps to 41 percent for those whose household income is less than $50,000. The majority of respondents plan to curb costs by living more modestly in retirement.

“Consumers can change their lifestyle and invest smartly … but for added security, they should also explore strategies and products that offer opportunities for their income payments to rise,” added Libbe, who works for an insurer that sells guaranteed-income annuity products.

Neal St. Anthony