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Top Employers Top family-friendly employers help workers juggle careers, home life

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The winners of Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers 2015 understand the challenges employees face in their personal lives, especially when bringing up young children. That's why the companies recognized by this year's competition offer the most forward-thinking programs to help their employees balance work and family, in a workplace environment that openly supports them.

Virtually all offer industry-leading maternity and parental top-up payments for new mothers, fathers and adoptive parents, as well as flexible work options that help employees successfully cope with the demands of a busy family life while managing a career.

Increasingly, enlightened employers are adding other options such as assistance with daycare, adoption subsidies and contributions toward in-vitro fertilization to employees who need them.

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Many also address ongoing issues in their employees' lives by offering compassionate leave to care for a gravely ill family member or ailing elderly parent. As well, benefits such as flexible health-care plans with family coverage, earned personal days off and generous vacation time are all highly valued by employees.

Family-friendly initiatives can be innovative rather than costly to a company's bottom line. Examples include KPMG's "Working Parents" networking group that connects parents across the organization so they can share ideas and experiences, or Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre's "Life Stages Program," which offers counselling programs for employees at different stages of their lives.

As the workplace continues to evolve, family-friendly programs and policies are proving to be a valuable tool for any organization looking to attract and retain talent, particularly as the first wave of millennials begin to plan their own families.

Any employer with its head office or principal place of business in Canada can enter this competition, regardless of size, or whether private or public sector. The Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers winners are a sub-set of Canada's Top 100 Employers.

THE LIST

Accenture Inc., Toronto. Business consulting; 3,623 employees. Offers a generous in-vitro fertilization (IVF) subsidy to employees requiring treatments, to a maximum of $15,000.

BC Public Service, Victoria. Provincial government; 24,901 employees. New parents have the option to extend their leave into an unpaid leave of absence.

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Dalhousie University, Halifax. Universities; 3,622 employees. Encourages ongoing employee development with free tuition for employees, up to two credits each year, and generous tuition subsidies for employees' immediate family members.

Department of Finance Canada, Ottawa. Federal government; 791 employees. Allows employees to apply for unpaid educational leaves of absence, up to one year.

Desjardins Group / Mouvement des caisses Desjardins, Montreal. Credit unions; 37,994 employees. Offers an on-site daycare centre for head-office employees returning to work.

HP Advanced Solutions Inc., Victoria. Computer systems design services; 445 employees. In addition to 10 paid personal days off, new employees start with three weeks of paid vacation.

ISM Canada, Regina. Computer programming; 873 employees. Offers a variety of alternative work options, including telecommuting, flexible hours, compressed work weeks and a formal earned-days-off program.

Ivanhoé Cambridge Inc., Montreal. Property management; 1,301 employees. Supports full-time employees with compassionate leave top-up payments when called upon to care for a loved one, to 80 per cent of salary for eight weeks.

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KPMG LLP, Toronto. Accounting; 6,020 employees. Manages a virtual Special Parents Network to support parents of children with special physical, emotional or behavioural needs.

Monsanto Canada Inc., Winnipeg. Research and development, 399 employees. Encourages employees to be active in their local community by providing paid time off to volunteer with charitable organizations.

National Energy Board, Calgary. Federal government; 392 employees. Considers previous work experience with setting vacation time for new and experienced employees.

Ontario Public Service/ OPS, Toronto. Provincial government; 61,672 employees. Offers priority placement for children of employees at the Queen's Park Child Care Centre.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance/ SGI, Regina. Insurance carriers; 1,831 employees. Encourages children of employees to pursue postsecondary studies through an academic scholarship program to $2,500 per child.

Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. Universities; 2,774 employees. Offers a nap room for employees at the Burnaby campus who need a quick rest during the busy day.

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Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto. Hospitals; 5,270 employees. Manages a unique Life Stages Program to support employees through all stages of life, from student life to parenthood to retirement.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc., Cambridge, Ont. Automobile manufacturing; 8,513 employees. Offers a flexible health plan where employees can reinvest unused health credits into a health spending account for additional coverage, take them as a cash bonus or invest them into an RRSP plan.

Trican Well Service Ltd., Calgary. Support for oil and gas operations; 2,395 employees. Offers maternity and parental leave top-up payments for new mothers and adoptive parents to 100 per cent of salary for 52 weeks, as well as parental top-up for new fathers to 100 per cent of salary for 37 weeks.

University of Toronto, Toronto. Universities; 9,019 employees. Manages on-site daycare facilities at each campus location, as well as offering an off-site daycare subsidy to $2,000 per child.

Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, Vancouver. Credit Unions; 2,025 employees. Is a "Living Wage Employer" that recognizes the social and economic benefits of paying a real living wage for all its employees and service providers.

World Vision Canada, Mississauga. Social advocacy; 464 employees. Offers alternative work arrangements, including flexible hours, telecommuting, shortened and compressed work week options, and reduced summer hours.

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METHODOLOGY

The editors at Mediacorp Canada Inc. have a challenge in judging the most family-friendly employers from among Canada's Top 100 Employers.

In a field where progressive initiatives and programs are standard issue, they must find the employers that offer the most assistance to employees with young families.

Organizations are evaluated on the family-friendly benefits they offer, such as outstanding maternity and parental leave top-up payments, the availability of flexible work options, such as telecommuting and compressed work weeks, personal days off, vacation allowance and daycare assistance, which all help employees manage a healthy life-work balance.

The editors study each organization's health benefit plans to determine whether family coverage is provided and what the cost is to the employee. Emerging issues such as subsidies for adoption or in-vitro fertilization, as well as compassionate-care leave and top-up also factor into their evaluation. Additionally, the editors look at the specific work-life balance issues unique to that employer's industry and judge how that organization has addressed those issues before making their final decisions.

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