8 Perks that Make Companies Perfect for Working Parents

What perks to working parents really want?What perks to working parents really want?Working Mother and other magazines routinely release their lists of the best places for women to work. But with our search for work-life balance becoming a full-time job in and of itself, things that used to be considered perks -- flex time, telecommuting, gym memberships, and lactation rooms, for example -- are more like perquisites for many working parents. So what makes some companies so much better for working moms than others? We took a look at Working Mother's latest 100 Best Companies list, and here's what made some winners really stand out.

Full benefits for part-time work

New York-based PwC allows moms who work just 20 hours per week to still earn full benefits and stay on the track to better positions, and Bank of America also offers health insurance to those who put in just 20 hours per week, and employees are allowed to take two paid hours off per week in order to do charity and volunteer work. At law firm Arnold & Porter, full benefits are available to employees who log 25 hours per week.

Plenty of training and career support

Forget the "sink or swim" mentality. Companies like General Mills, TriHelath, and Deloitte earn their spots on the top 10 list with their array of training programs, mentoring initiatives, and open-communication practices. Professional services firm Ernst & Young has more than 70 networks for its U.S.-based employees, including discussion forums, book clubs, dinners, and informative lectures. Ernst & Young's helping hand extends outside of the office as well: the employee assistance program also arranges counseling and support groups for the kids of their employees. Like many private universities, Cornell allows its employees to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees for free (and will reimburse up to $888 per year for classes taken at other schools).

Financial help

Deloitte offers a mortgage-assistance program, annual tuition aid, and pre-tax commuter, health-care and dependent-care programs. WellStar, a healthcare organization, gives its employees discounts on sports, entertainment, and child- and elder-care, and also has a tuition-aid program that covers 100 percent of job-related college courses or degrees, up to $4,500 annually.

Generous parental leave policies

Again, Deloitte comes out on top. They have gender-neutral parental leave policies, enabling men to be stay-at-home dads more easily with eight fully paid weeks off for primary caregivers and three fully paid weeks off for secondary caregivers. General Mills offers 26 weeks off for the birth or adoption of a child; the long leave is job-guaranteed, not paid, but parents who adopt get $10,000 in adoption aid. At Accenture, once a new mom returns to work, she can draw from a virtual bank of 40 hours of subsidized back-up childcare, available in their homes or at local daycare centers. But Credit Suisse ups the ante, offering 20 daysof free back up care per dependent per year.

Easy access to medical care

It's hard to take time off for routine, non-emergency health care, so Discovery Communications makes it easier for busy parents by staffing "wellness clinics" at which employees can get blood tests, physicals, EKGs, basic prescription drugs, and more. American Express offers something similar: Their seven wellness clinics consult with nurses, dietitians, and physicians to help employees lose weight, screen for health problems, reduce stress, and practice better eating habits. They also fill certain generic drug prescriptions for free, in order to minimize chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

A kid-friendly environment

TriHealth goes far beyond just having on-site daycare: The kids of their employees work as candy stripers, take swimming and yoga classes at the on-site gym, earn babysitting experience and attend holiday parties. At Bronson Healthcare group, any child older than 6 can swim at the Bronson Athletic Club, and on-site prenatal courses allow moms-to-be to learn without having to leave the office.

An emphasis on work-life balance

After finding out that its employes were yearning for better work-life balance, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca made it a priority to eliminate "low-value, time-wasting work," streamlining daily routines and minimizing long-winded meetings. SC Johnson holds farmers' markets right on-site. Law firm Arnold & Porter has a concierge service to help parents find housekeepers, plan parties, and make travel plans; SC Johnson's subsidized service runs random errands for their employees, and accounting and tax firm McGladrey's concierge service offers four hours of free assistance with chores each year. Chicago-based BDO USA issued laptops to almost all of their employees, in order to make it easier to telecommute. Diageo North America recently opted to have summer last all year long, allowing parents to leave work every Friday at 2 p.m. And Eli Lilly and Co. really encourages its employees to give back to their communities: their Connecting Hearts Abroad program sends 200 workers to other countries each year to teach them how to improve local health care services, and pays them for the two-week trip.

A company that feels like a community

Carlson, a travel and hospitality company based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, has what employees describe as a "casual, collegial atmosphere" that keeps them comfortable -- and super productive. The company throws family picnics, encourages employees to volunteer for local charities during work hours, and is very open to unusual telecommuting arrangements (according to Working Mother Magazine, it allowed one agent to telecommute to a Texas office while living in Alaska!). Texas Instruments gives its employees access to museums, zoos, and concerts.

What perks would make your company even better than it is now?

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