Last year, Danny Meyer and his team started an industry-wide conversation about tipping, wages, and overall working conditions for restaurant employees when they announced a plan to move to a gratuity-free "hospitality included" system. And now, Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group — which operates some of NYC’s most popular restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, and The Modern — is introducing a parental leave policy that also bucks industry trends.
Starting in 2017, all full time employees in the front and back of the house with more than one year of employment will be offered 100 percent of their base wages for the first four weeks after their child is born or adopted. After that, all employees will be offered 60 percent of their base wages for the next four weeks. This leave plan applies to all new parents — mothers, fathers, and committed domestic partners with babies or newly adopted children. This plan will cover all Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants. (Shake Shack, Meyer’s hit burger chain, became its own company in 2015 and will not fall under this parental leave plan.) Union Square Hospitality Group piloted this parental leave within its corporate office, starting in 2015.
Businesses are required by law to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave to full time employees with over 50 weeks of experience on the job. Although paid parental leave is relatively common in white collar environments, it’s extremely rare in the hospitality industry, and particularly restaurant kitchens. By introducing this paid leave plan, Union Square Hospitality Group is creating a workplace that allows more opportunities for women, in particular, to grow within the company. This extra financial support will allow new mothers to focus on their families during their leave, and it can only help them reintegrate into the workplace once the leave is over. Stay tuned for more details on how Union Square Hospitality Group is implementing this plan in the coming weeks.