Famous Restaurant Owner Institutes Paid Parental Leave for Employees

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(Happy Muppet Chef Via Giphy)

Paid parental leave is not an uncommon perk of high-paying, white-collar jobs, but it’s rare in restaurants. Now a major player in the foodservice industry has announced that it will start offering paid parental leave, and it’s a huge deal.

According to Eater, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group says that as of 2017, all full-time employees will get 100 percent of their base wages for the first four weeks after having or adopting a child. After that, they will get 60 percent of their base wages for the next four weeks.

That’s completely amazing for the restaurant industry, and it applies to front- and back-of-house employees, as well as employees in corporate. (USHG’s corporate employees have had this for a year as a pilot program.) The US mandates 12 weeks of unpaid leave for full-time employees who have children, but paid leave is rarer in this country, especially in restaurants. This rule applies to full-time servers, staff, bartenders, and everyone who works in the kitchen, too.

Also, it’s worth noting that Danny Meyer’s company eliminated tipping at his restaurants. In many states, workers who earn tips can be paid less than minimum wage, under the assumption that the tips will bring the employee’s earnings above the minimum, so employers only have to pay in the neighborhood of $2 an hour to those employees. Meyer’s company eliminated tips in restaurants entirely, raised the prices, and increased staff salaries to account for the difference. So when USHG says it is giving 100 percent of a server’s “base wages,” it’s not talking about $2 an hour.

Danny Meyer is a very big deal in the restaurant industry. He operates some of New York’s most famous and popular restaurants, and his properties are probably most famous for having really, really, ridiculously good service. (He literally wrote a book on hospitality.) That means he has room to try things that a one-restaurant operation might not be able to, but it also means that when he tries something new, everybody else is going to be watching to see how it works out. Let’s hope paid parental leave becomes the next hot new restaurant trend.