The company says the new benefits are thanks to the tax bill. Worker advocates say otherwise.
The company says the new benefits are thanks to the tax bill. Worker advocates say otherwise. terroa/getty

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Starbucks announced today it will increase benefits for workers by expanding parental leave and giving employees new sick time benefits (one hour per 30 hours worked). The company is also promising raises and stock grants.

It's big news for workers in Starbucks' corporate offices and its 25,000 stores around the world. But there's still a significant gap between the paid family leave given to baristas and higher-ranking employees. While in-store workers will now get six weeks of paid leave when they become parents, salaried Starbucks employees receive between 12 and 18 weeks.

Starbucks has been slowly expanding its paid leave policy. The company earned congratulatory headlines last year when it announced that non-store employees like district managers would get 18 weeks of paid parental leave if they gave birth and 12 weeks paid leave if they were fathers or adoptive/foster parents. But in-store workers like baristas would get six weeks of paid leave if they gave birth. Baristas who were non-birth parents could take only unpaid leave.

In response, baristas and shareholders called on the company to improve the policy.

"Corporate policies that provide unequal leave for headquarters staff and partners in stores don’t make any sense," Starbucks barista Kristen Picciolo wrote here on Slog last spring. "Are our babies and families less important than those born to corporate employees?"

Today's announcement improves the benefits by extending paid leave to baristas who adopt or foster or whose partners give birth, but maintains the gap between workers. (The good news for baristas in Washington state: Beginning in 2020, hourly workers will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid family leave.)

Starbucks says the changes "will total more than $250 million for more than 150,000 partners and are accelerated by recent changes in the U.S. tax law." Labor advocates credit a year's worth of worker advocacy instead.

Starbucks did not return a request for comment. The company said in its announcement today that it pays above the minimum wage in all states and offers better benefits than comparable retailers.