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Ranking the Paid Family Leave Policies of Major Food Brands

How six companies stack up

Stephen Chemin/Getty Images

Taking time off for the birth of a child can be a considerable obstacle for new parents who work in the food and restaurant industry. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not mandate that companies provide paid paternal leave to their employees; while federal law requires companies to allow 12 weeks of family leave for certain qualifying employees, there are no requirements for compensation. Outside of California, Rhode Island, Washington, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia, all of which have passed paid family leave laws, it’s up to individual companies to set their own policies.

During his first State of the Union address, Trump encouraged lawmakers to “support working families by supporting paid family leave.” The President’s daughter Ivanka has been a vocal proponent of a national paid family leave program, and has met with Republican lawmakers to drum up support for such a policy — an apparent attempt to make good on her father’s campaign promise to give six weeks of paid leave for working mothers. So far, she’s had little luck.

Instead, the recently passed GOP tax reform bill offers new incentives (but not mandates) for employers to provide paid family leave to workers earning less than $72,000 a year: Employers who pay 50 percent of an employee’s regular wages while they’re out on family leave get a tax credit for 12.5 percent of that employees’ pay; those who pay 100 percent receive a 25 percent tax credit. (Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska was the first in the Senate to propose this amendment to the tax code; it was originally proposed as standalone legislation, but stalled in Congress.)

A report by non-profit organization Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US) identifies paid family leave policies at some of the biggest corporations across America, including a few food brands. Eater compiled that data, and reached out to several restaurant companies not included in the report, but most were reticent to provide information on their policies.

Paid Family Leave at Major Food Brands

Legend Darden Restaurants Dunkin' Brands McDonald's Starbucks Union Square Hospitality Group Yum! Brands
Legend Darden Restaurants Dunkin' Brands McDonald's Starbucks Union Square Hospitality Group Yum! Brands
Maternal 2 0 12 6 8 0*
Paternal 2 0 0 6 8 0**
Adoptive 2 0 0 6 8 0**
*Corporate employees receive 18 weeks paid; ** Corporate employees receive 6 weeks paid Source: PL+US

Darden Restaurants

Darden brands include Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s, and Yard House. Biological mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents are allowed two weeks of paid family leave, according to PL+US research.

Dunkin’ Brands

Dunkin’ Brands, parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins, was not listed in PL+US’s report. Justin Drake, senior manager of public relations at the company, tells Eater Dunkin’ does not have a paid family leave policy, and instead leaves it up to franchisees “who are solely responsible for making their own business decisions, including employment decisions such as schedules, wages, and benefits they offer their employees.”


New biological mothers employed by McDonald’s receive 12 weeks off at 50 percent of their regular pay, according to PL+US. Fathers and adoptive parents do not receive paid time off.


Starbucks began offering paid family leave to its hourly store employees in 2017 and has since expanded the program multiple times: As of January 2018, Starbucks gives all parents (including birth mothers, adoptive and foster parents, and new fathers) six weeks of paid leave at 100 percent pay.

Yum! Brands

Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell fall under the Yum! Brands umbrella, and restaurant employees at these chains receive zero paid time off to have children, according to PL+US. In 2011, Yum! fought for a proposed Wisconsin law that limited paid sick leave in the state. Yum’s corporate employees, however, can take up to 18 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers, while fathers, partners, and adoptive and foster parents can take up to six weeks of paid leave.

Union Square Hospitality Group

Restaurateur Danny Meyer sent shockwaves throughout the industry in September when he announced a paid family leave policy for his New York restaurant group. New biological mothers, fathers, and parents of adopted children receive four weeks of time off at 100 percent pay, followed by four weeks at 60 percent. Unfortunately, the policy does not extend to Meyer’s Shake Shack brand. Representatives for Shake Shack did not respond to requests for information on the company’s policy.

A representative for Panda Express tells Eater the company’s paid family leave policy varies by state, but did not provide further details. Representatives for CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Red Burrito, Green Burrito), In-N-Out Burger, and Waffle House declined to share any information on their policies. Burger King, Chick-fil-A, and Chipotle Mexican Grill did not respond to multiple requests for information.

Paid Leave at Big Soda Brands

Legend The Coca-Cola Company PepsiCo
Legend The Coca-Cola Company PepsiCo
Maternal 14 12
Paternal 6 4
Adoptive 6 4

Some restaurant chains are progressing on this issue, but PL+US’s research reveals they mostly have ground to make up on many white-collar companies. America’s two major soda brands, The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo, are among those leading the way. Coca-Cola is reportedly instituting a new policy on January 1, 2017, when it will allow six weeks of paid time off for all new parents, plus an additional six to eight weeks for biological mothers. Pepsi gives biological mothers 10 to 12 weeks of paid time off, and it allows four weeks for fathers and adoptive parents.

Paid Family Leave at America’s Top Companies [PL+US]
Danny Meyer’s Restaurant Group Introduces Groundbreaking Parental Leave Plan [ENY]