Liz Clayman

Beginning this month, all full-time employees at Union Square Hospitality restaurants are eligible for parental leave.

Danny Meyer's Parental Leave Plan Goes Into Action

Beginning January 1, all full-time employees at Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group are eligible for four weeks of paid parental leave.

Danny Meyer is at it again. His Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) has been an industry pioneer, from eliminating tips and raising wages to offering benefits like insurance and paid time-off. Now, as a national debate ensues around maternity and paternity leave, USHG once again takes the lead.

Beginning January 1, all full-time employees at USHG—whose portfolio includes famed concepts like Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, and Untitled—are eligible for four weeks of paid parental leave with the option to extend another four weeks at 60 percent of their salary. This benefit extends to mothers, fathers, committed domestic partners, and adopting parents.

“I’m a big advocate of it, having experienced it firsthand and realizing what an incredible gift it is to have that guilt-free time to devote to becoming a new parent,” says Stephanie Jackson, director of learning and development at USHG. “In our industry in particular, people have pretty limited options as far as incurring that financial burden of taking unpaid leave, or going back before you’re truly ready to go back, or dropping out of the workforce altogether.”

The initiative, which was championed by chief culture officer Erin Moran, was first tested in the home office nearly three years ago. At the time, Jackson was pregnant with her first child and got to participate in the pilot. She says the test run engendered a deep sense of loyalty and increased productivity, although the actual return on investment is difficult to quantify.

Still, by providing employees with this special benefit, USHG stands to boost its retention rates, keeping its most talented people in house. Jackson hopes the parental leave initiative can serve as a model.

“Hopefully [it] will show other business leaders, both in our industry and outside of our industry, that a policy like this can exist and can be successful. I think it’s intimidating when you don’t have an example of this being done before,” she says. “We have a responsibility as leaders in our industry to exercise that entrepreneurial spirit and take the first leap.”