Fast-casual chain Noodles & Company is expanding its already robust benefits program with nearly a dozen new perks such as backup dependent care and tutoring services — benefits aimed at helping employees juggle remote work with the demands of parenting young children during the pandemic.
The company also launched new gender-inclusion benefits that give employees the option to include their pronoun on their name tags or email signatures; the brand is also making all restrooms within locations gender neutral.
Other new benefits outlined by the company on Thursday include free flu shots, free mental-health counseling (in-person or virtual) and free dental services for children under the age 14.
The flu shots are available to all 8,200 team members but geared toward those who don’t have access to free flu shots. The company will provide employees a voucher to receive the flu vaccine at a local Walgreens, something the chain felt was especially important during the novel coronavirus era.
“This is the first time we have ever done this,” Amy Cohen, director of the company’s Total Rewards program, told Nation’s Restaurant News in a phone interview. “But we certainly recognize how important it is for our teams to be healthy.”
The Broomfield, Colo.-based company is known for offering generous benefits for corporate employees and restaurant-level workers including managers.
Sue Petersen, vice president of human resources, said the company is constantly evolving its benefits program to reflect the needs of today’s workforce.
A year marked by social injustice, a major health crisis and economic uncertainty also influenced decisions made by leadership at the fast-casual chain.
“We really put an inclusion and diversity lens on our benefits,” Petersen said.
Most of the new benefits, which include extended paternity leave, surrogacy benefits and tuition assistance, go into effect Jan. 1.
“We want each team member to know that they are welcomed and valued at Noodles & Company, and we believe that improving on our existing benefits closes the advancement gap and provides everyone a seat at the table,” Petersen said in a statement.
This year, the company said it was important to recognize the stress everyone is under during the pandemic.
A poll released Wednesday indicates that 65% of employees with children in remote learning situations are feeling burnout. Roughly 42% of workers surveyed in the poll, conducted by management consulting firm Eagle Hill Consulting, attributed the burnout to balancing work and their personal life.
Recognizing this, Noodles is offering free in-person and virtual counseling and back-up dependent care support.
The company is also introducing mental-health awareness webinars. Those sessions, which start this week, will help educate managers on how to identify mental-health symptoms and how to support team members who might be struggling with stress or depression.
“We understand the strain of work and home life along with the additional stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and how this impacts our team members, which is why these mental health benefits are so important to us,” Petersen said.
The company is also providing the following:
- Tuition assistance for all team members and their family. This includes $3,500 a year for a team member; and $2,500 for family members. It covers online classes at Bellevue University based in Nebraska.
- Weight loss program assistance (eligibility: anyone on Noodles’ medical plan)
- Free dental services for children under 14 (eligibility: anyone on Noodles’ medical plan)
- Six weeks of paid paternity leave. This benefit was previously a two-week paternity leave. It now matches the company’s benefit for maternity leave. (eligibility: assistant general managers and above)
- Surrogacy coverage up to $10,000. (eligibility: assistant general managers and above)
- Backup dependent care program. This is a broad range of benefits that includes offering employees tutoring and homework services, childcare support, pet care support and elder care. For example, if your dependent’s provider (like a childcare program) has to shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak or other emergency, then an employee can tap a network of approved providers. The cost is $15 a day for center-based care and $4 an hour for home care. The same pricing applies to pet care. (eligibility: shift managers and above)
- One hour of paid time to vote (either at the polls or by mail-in voting)
- Paid bereavement for miscarriage (eligibility: shift manager and above
- Floating holidays (eligibility: assistant general managers and above)
Led by CEO Dave Boennighausen, Life At Noodles is the company’s benefits initiative aimed at making Noodles the most rewarding place to work in the restaurant industry. Other benefits include a “phase-out, phase-in” maternity leave program, student-loan debt assistance of $1,000 per year for general managers, breast milk shipment payment during business travel, adoption assistance, financial wellness tools and instant pay.
“These new benefits help us to not only better serve our existing team members, but also help us appeal to a wider range of potential team members who’ve maybe never imagined that a job in foodservice can grow into a life-long career,” Boennighausen said in a statement.
Noodles has more than 450 restaurants across the U.S.
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