Mom of two Jennifer Hensel says she’s thrilled about a new paid family and medical leave policy at the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, even though she had her babies—now five-years-old and 20-months-old—before the policy was in place.
Hensel was inspired to help create a paid leave policy at the Chamber after attending a Family Forward NC presentation at an event hosted by Action Greensboro, a nonprofit that champions projects aimed at enhancing Greensboro’s quality of life, civic engagement, and educational advancement and attracting and retaining young people.
“Our organization includes a lot of young professionals and young families, so it’s important that we have policies like paid leave to support them,” she says.
Deborah Hooper, the Chamber’s chief operating officer, agrees that the Family Forward NC presentation was a catalyst, along with ongoing conversations the Chamber had been having about how to best serve its 28 employees.
To help determine what policy changes were needed, the Chamber convened a task force of employees across various teams, along with HR and other leadership. The group was a diverse mix of employees of different ages, races, backgrounds and genders, some with children and some without, and employees who were new to the organization as well as those who had been there awhile, Hooper says.
“We had such great conversations – emotional and authentic,” Hooper says. “I loved that the task force members felt the trust among us to share exactly what they wanted us to know.”
That openness and trust has been cultivated over time as part of the Chamber’s culture, Hooper says.
As a member of the employee task force, Hensel says she shared openly about the difficulties she had when the organization did not have paid family and medical leave in place. Hensel says the ability to be open and honest with her peers and the Chamber leaders and share honest conversation is one of the organization’s strengths.
“That’s embedded in our culture, that we can share and talk about our personal experience,” she says.
The Chamber launched its new paid family medical leave policy last month. It provides up to six weeks of paid leave, including four weeks of paid family leave, to all full-time employees. Employees can take the leave to care for their own health condition, after the birth, adoption, or foster placement of an employee’s child, or to care for spouse, partner, child or parent with a serious health condition.
Additionally, the Chamber established a policy to create a donated sick time bank. Each year, during benefits enrollment period, employees can donate some of the accrued sick time they’ve not used to the bank, which can be used by employees who need extra paid sick time the following year.
Now that the paid leave and sick leave donation bank are in place, Hooper says the Chamber will continue to strive to do more. Hensel also believes it’s important for the Chamber to continue to evolve, in large part so the organization can set an example in the community. “I think it’s really essential that our organization take a leadership role,” she says. “I think it’s a really powerful statement, given that we serve the business community but we’re a nonprofit that doesn’t have the financial capacity of a large company. If we can do it, you can do it.”