SFU, Novo Nordisk among top family-friendly employers

'With many Canadians supporting aging parents and starting families later in life, progressive employers are providing family assistance at every stage of life'

SFU, Novo Nordisk among top family-friendly employers
Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk Canada’s head office in Mississauga, Ont.

Simon Fraser University (SFU), Novo Nordisk Canada and the University of Toronto are among Canada’s Top Family-Friendly Employers for 2021.

"What society considers a 'family-friendly employer' is changing," says Richard Yerema, managing editor of the Canada's Top 100 Employers project by Mediacorp. "When we started the family-friendly competition 19 years ago, a good employer in this area focused exclusively on employees with young families. Today, with many Canadians supporting aging parents and starting families later in life, progressive employers are responding by providing family assistance at every stage of life."

The competition looks at a range of HR practices, such as: maternity and parental leave; daycare assistance; paid personal and earned-days-off (EDO) programs; flexible work arrangements; compassionate leave and elder care assistance; adoption assistance; reproductive assistance, including fertility drugs and IVF; and academic bursaries for employees' children.

Only five per cent of employers in Canada offer coverage for both fertility drugs and other fertility costs, such as IVF procedures and testing, according to a recent report.

Winning practices

Last year, SFU transferred its recreation programming online to offer employees six weeks of free fitness, home workouts, meditation and stretching classes. The school also provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers, fathers or adoptive parents (up to 100 per cent of salary for 35 weeks) and manages onsite childcare. It also contributes to a defined benefit pension plan and health benefits that extend to retirees.

“The university is one of just 20 employers recognized for offering progressive and forward-thinking programs to help employees balance work and family commitments — and for providing extra flexibility during COVID-19 so that parents could balance work and family commitments,” says the university. “This year’s competition organizers recognized SFU’s generous maternity and parental leave top-up payments, benefit pension plan and health benefits, and flexible working arrangements.”

Novo Nordisk Canada's flexible work policy includes a unique "core hours in effect" policy to ensure that meetings are only scheduled between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to accommodate employee needs outside of the office. In helping employees adjust to extended work-from-home arrangements over the past year, the company hosted online sessions to help employees set up ergonomically correct workstations and ensured that they could expense some of their home office costs.

It also expanded its wellness program to include a points-based element: employees can earn up to $925 in gift cards (while their partners can earn up to $465) for participating in challenges that are designed to drive healthy behaviours and risk reduction across all dimensions of well-being.

“We are proud to be named one of ‘Canada’s Top Family-Friendly Employers’ for 2021, a title that’s more important than ever for us to continue living up to during these challenging times,” tweeted the company.

U of T supports families with generous pregnancy, parental, adoptive, and primary caregiver leave top-up payments (available to new parents) and provides workshops, discussion groups and access to a wide range of resources through a Family Care Office. Additionally, there are child care options on campus and a variety of family-friendly spaces, including designated areas for breastfeeding and pumping, baby change stations and a family study room.

The university contributes to a defined benefit pension plan, offers health benefits coverage that extend to retirees (with no age limit and 75 per cent premium coverage) has a Senior College Centre for retired academics and librarians.

“The University of Toronto is committed to helping employees and students meet their family obligations and to creating an equitable and inclusive environment for everyone in our community”, said Francesca Dobbin, director of family programs and service. “For example, during the pandemic, the Family Care Office has adapted all programming and appointments to an online format, and numerous just-in-time webinars and resources addressing current needs were created and implemented to support employees and students with family responsibilities. The office has worked to provide support for employees requiring flexible work arrangements, assisting with determining which types of work arrangements are most suitable to accommodate their family responsibilities, and helping staff navigate their childcare options.”

The full list of winners can be found here.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Genome Canada, Capital Power, CISCO, DHL Express, Dentons, SAP Canada, Jazz Aviation, Canada Life, Jobber and PEAK Financial Group are also among Canada’s top employers for 2021, according to separate competitions.

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