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11 Companies With Innovative Benefits For Parents

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Over the past several decades, two full-time working parents has increasingly become the norm. That’s why it's especially important for companies to consider ways to make their employees’ lives easier. Here are 11 companies that offer innovative benefits to parents.

1. NETFLIX

When it comes to parental leave, very few companies come close to entertainment company Netflix. In 2015, it announced that salaried employees would be allowed "unlimited paid parental leave" for the first year after a birth or adoption. After some uproar that the policy didn’t apply to hourly workers, Netflix gave hourly workers in their departments parental leave as well, albeit for shorter time frames (and the times allotted varies depending on department—DVD workers get 12 weeks, streaming employees get 16). But it’s still a step in the right direction.

2. CAPRIOTTI'S SANDWICH SHOP

This Las Vegas-based fast casual restaurant chain knows parenting demands don’t stop when children get a little older. That’s why on-staff parents can take time off whenever they want to attend their children’s events and activities. "If this kind of flexibility applies to one member of the team, it must apply to all," CEO Ashley Morris has said. "This creates a culture of support and understanding, and policies like these tend to help in retaining talent and creating an environment that fosters quality work."

3. CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY

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This year, the iconic canned soup company started offering gender-neutral paid leave—10 weeks for a primary caregiver and two weeks for a secondary caregiver (but, according to the Huffington Post, Campbell president and CEO Denise Morrison has asked the company's HR department "to be open to individual arrangements to meet employees’ needs"). The company, based in Camden, New Jersey, also has a lactation room for breastfeeding mothers. Once children are a little older they can take advantage of the onsite after-school programs, summer programs, and kindergarten classes.

4. GDIAPERS

This eco-friendly diaper company makes its money selling to parents, so of course you would expect them to be pretty progressive when it comes to their employees’ benefits. As well as more standard things like having onsite child care, giving up to six months of paid parental leave, allowing flexible hours once parents return to work, and the ability to work from home when they need to, most impressive is that babies are also allowed in offices.

5. PATAGONIA

The length of maternity leave in the United States means that often, women return to work while their child is still breastfeeding. Outdoor clothing business Patagonia tries to make this easier on their employees by allowing breastfeeding moms that are traveling for work to bring the baby (under the age of 1) and a nanny, all paid for by the company. Then once the children are older, company buses pick up the kids from school and drop them at the onsite childcare center.

6. ARNOLD & PORTER

This international law firm based in Washington, D.C. gives new parents plenty of great perks, like 18-week and 6-week paid leave for the primary and secondary caregivers, respectively; onsite child care; and 15 days of free backup childcare if theirs falls through. But perhaps most shockingly, while we think of lawyers as working ridiculous hours, this firm gives parents health and welfare benefits at just 25 hours a week if they decide they don’t want to come back to work full-time. They even have associates to coach new parents on the transition to part-time.

7. ERNST & YOUNG

This Big Four accountancy firm consistently ranks in the top 10 of Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies list. Among other more common benefits, like help with fertility, surrogate, and adoption expenses, this company is all about educating their employees. That’s why they give breastfeeding mothers access to lactation consultants and have coaches who are trained to help working parents figure out how to raise a child and how to handle work/life balance. But they don’t forget about you once your kid is older. The high school children of employees can meet with a college coach to help with applications and decision making once they're university-bound.

8. JOHNSON & JOHNSON

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Many parents probably have this company’s baby shampoo in their bathroom, and it takes just as good care of the children of its employees. As well as giving up to 17 weeks paid leave for mothers (8 weeks for fathers), they offer adoption and surrogacy assistance, and will ship breastmilk home when moms are traveling for work.

9. ADOBE

While most companies that get lauded for their parental leave give around 18 weeks of paid time off, this computer software company offers birth mothers up to whopping 26 weeks paid leave. Not only that, but the entire company shuts down twice a year—once in the winter, and once in the summer—allowing families to take a vacation or just spend time together.

10. NETAPP

NetApp, a Fortune 500 company, handles storage and data management. Located in Sunnyvale, California, it is especially generous to employees looking to adopt. Its adoption assistance plan will reimburse eligible employees for things like court costs, legal fees, and travel expenses, up to $20,000 total.

11. PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS

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Another one of the Big Four accounting firms—and, yes, the company that tallies the Oscar ballots—PwC has some very innovative benefits for parents. New moms are paired up with veteran moms in the firm’s Mentor Moms program, allowing them to get guidance, insights, or just a sounding board as they learn about being a parent. If a high-performing employee decides to leave the firm to be a stay-at-home parent, there is a program to keep in touch with former colleagues and attend training events for up to five years so they can stay up-to-date in case they want to return to the business world at some point. And if you do want to keep working they will help you find a caregiver using their Premium Nanny Service—free of charge!

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13 Secrets of Halloween Costume Designers
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For consumers, Halloween may be all about scares, but for businesses, it’s all about profits. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend $9.1 billion this year on spooky goods, including a record $3.4 billion on costumes. “It’s an opportunity to be something you’re not the other 364 days of the year,” Jonathan Weeks, CEO of Costumeish.com, tells Mental Floss. “It feels like anything goes.”

To get a better sense of what goes into those lurid, funny, and occasionally outrageous disguises, we spoke to a number of designers who are constantly trying to react to an evolving seasonal market. Here’s what we learned about what sells, what doesn’t, and why adding a “sexy” adjective to a costume doesn’t always work.

1. SOME COSTUMES ARE JUST TOO OUTRAGEOUS FOR RETAIL

A woman models a scary nun costume for Halloween
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For kids, Halloween is a time to look adorable in exchange for candy. For adults, it’s a time to push the envelope. Sometimes that means provocative, revealing costumes; other times, it means going for shock value. “You get looks at a party dressed as an Ebola worker,” Weeks says. “We have pregnant nun costumes, baby cigarette costumes.” The catch: You won’t be finding these at Walmart. “They’re meant for online, not Spencer’s or Party City.”

2. … BUT THERE ARE SOME LINES THEY WON’T CROSS.

Homeowners are scared by trick-or-treaters on Halloween
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Although Halloween is the one day of the year people can deploy a dark sense of humor without inviting personal or professional disaster, some costume makers draw their own line when it comes to how far to exceed the boundaries of good taste. “We’ve never done a child pimp costume, but someone else has,” says Robert Berman, co-founder of Rasta Imposta, a business that broke into the industry on the strength of their fake dreadlock wig in 1992. Weeks says some questionable ideas that have been brought to the discussion table have stayed there. “There’s no toddler KKK costume or baby Nazi costume,” he says. “There is a line.”

3. THEY CAN DESIGN AND PRODUCE A COSTUME IN A MATTER OF DAYS.

A man models a costume in front of a mirror
Rob Stothard/Getty Images

A lot of costume interest comes from what’s been making headlines in the fall: Costumers have to be ready to meet that demand. “We’re pretty good at being able to react quickly,” says Pilar Quintana, vice-president of merchandising for Yandy.com. “Something happening in April may not be strong enough to stick around for Halloween.”

Because the mail-order site has in-house models and isn’t beholden to approval from big box vendors, Quintana can design and photograph a costume so it’s available within 72 hours. If it's more elaborate, it can take a little longer: Both Yandy and Weeks had costumes inspired by the Cecil the Lion story that broke in July 2015 (in which a trophy hunter from Minnesota killed an African lion) on their sites in a matter of weeks.

4. BEYONCE CAN HELP MOVE STALE INVENTORY.

A screen shot from Formation, a music video featuring Beyonce
beyonceVEVO, YouTube

Extravagant custom tailoring jobs aside, Halloween costumes are a business of instant demand and instant gratification—inventory needs to be plentiful in order to fill the deluge of orders that come in a short frame of time. If a business miscalculates the popularity of a given theme, they might be stuck with overstock until they can find a better idea to hang on it. “Last year, we had 400 or 500 Zorro costumes that we couldn’t sell for $10,” Weeks says. “It had a big black hat that came with it, and I thought, ‘That looks familiar.’ It turned out it looked a lot like the one Beyonce wore in her ‘Lemonade’ video.” Remarketed as a "Formation" hat for Beyonce cosplayers, Weeks moved his stock.

5. WOMEN DON’T USUALLY WEAR MASKS.

A man tries on a Joker mask at a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Curiously, there’s a large gender gap when it comes to the sculpted latex monster masks offered by Halloween vendors: They’re sold almost exclusively to men. “There just aren’t a lot of masks with female characters,” Weeks says. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because men in general like gory, scary costumes.” One exception: Hillary Clinton masks, which were all the rage last year.

6. FOOD COSTUMES ARE ALWAYS A HIT.

A dog wears a hot dog costume for Halloween
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At Rasta Imposta, Berman says political and pop culture trends can shift their plans, but one theme is a constant: People love to dress up as food. “We’ve had big success with food items. Bananas, pickles. We did an avocado.” Demand for these faux-edible costumes can occasionally get ugly: Rasta is currently suing Sears and Kmart for selling a banana costume that they allege infringes on Rasta’s copyrighted version, which has blackened ends and a vertical stripe.

7. ADDING ”SEXY” TO EVERYTHING DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK.

A packaged Halloween costume hangs on a store rack
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

It’s a recurring joke that some costume makers only need to add a “sexy” adjective to a design concept in order to make it marketable. While there’s some truth to that—Quintana references Yandy’s “sexy poop emoji” costume—it’s no guarantee of success. “We had a concept for ‘sexy cheese’ that was a no-go,” she says. “'Sexy corn’ didn’t really work at all. ‘Sexy anti-fascist’ didn’t make the cut this year.”

8. PEOPLE ASK FOR SOME WEIRD STUFF.

A person appears in a skull costume with glowing eyes for Halloween
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In addition to monitoring social media for memes and trends, designers can get an idea of what consumers are looking for by shadowing their online searches. Costumeish.com monitors what people are typing into their search bar to see if they’re missing out on a potential hit. “People search for odd things sometimes,” Weeks says. “People want to be a cactus, a palm tree, they’re looking for a priest and a boy costume. People can be weird.”

9. THEY HAVE WORKAROUNDS FOR BIG PROPERTIES.

Go out to a party this year and you’re almost guaranteed to run into the Queen of the North. But not every costume maker has the official license for Game of Thrones. What are other companies to do? Come up with a design that sparks recognition without sparking a lawsuit. “Our biggest seller right now is Sexy Northern Queen,” Quintana says. “It’s inspired by a TV show.” But she won’t say which one.

10. PEOPLE LOVE SHARKS.

Singer Katy Perry appears on stage with two dancing sharks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

From the clunky Ben Cooper plastic costume from 1975’s Jaws to today, people can’t seem to get enough of shark-themed outfits. “We do a lot of sharks,” Berman says. “Maybe it’s because of Shark Week in the summertime, but sharks always tend to trend. People just like the idea of sharks.”

11. DEAD CELEBRITIES MEAN SALES.

A portrait of Hugh Hefner hangs in the Playboy Mansion
Hector Mata/Getty Images

It may be morbid, but it’s a reality: The high-profile passing of celebrities, especially close to Halloween, can trigger a surge in sales. “Before Robin Williams died, I couldn’t sell a Mork costume for a dollar,” Weeks says. “After he died, I couldn’t not sell it for less than $100.” This year, designers expect Hugh Hefner to fuel costume ideas—unless something else pops up suddenly to grab their attention. “Last year, when Prince died, that was almost trumped by [presidential debate audience member] Ken Bone,” Berman says. “He became almost more popular than Prince.”

12. THEY PROFIT FROM PEOPLE SHOPPING AT THE LAST MINUTE.

A man shops for Halloween costumes in a retail store
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Ever wonder why food and other novelty costumes tend to outsell traditional garb like pirates and witches? Because costume shopping for adults is usually done frantically and they don’t have time to compare 25 different Redbeards. “People tend to do it at the very last minute, so we want something that pops out at them,” Berman says. “Like, ‘Oh, I want to be a crab.’”

Weeks agrees that procrastination is profitable. “We make a lot of money on shipping,” he says. “Some people get party invites on the 25th and so they’re paying for next-day air.”

13. IT’S NOT ACTUALLY A SEASONAL BUSINESS.

A woman shops for costumes in a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Everyone we spoke to agreed that the most surprising thing about the Halloween business is that it’s not really seasonal on their end. Costumes are designed year-round, and planning can take between 12 and 18 months. “It’s 365 days a year,” Quintana says. “We’ll start thinking about next Halloween in December.” Weeks says he'll begin planning in May 2018—for Halloween 2019.

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This Just In
Target Expands Its Clothing Options to Fit Kids With Special Needs
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Target

For kids with disabilities and their parents, shopping for clothing isn’t always as easy as picking out cute outfits. Comfort and adaptability often take precedence over style, but with new inclusive clothing options, Target wants to make it so families don’t have to choose one over the other.

As PopSugar reports, the adaptive apparel is part of Target’s existing Cat & Jack clothing line. The collection already includes items made without uncomfortable tags and seams for kids prone to sensory overload. The latest additions to the lineup will be geared toward wearers whose disabilities affect them physically.

Among the 40 new pieces are leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, bodysuits, and winter jackets. To make them easier to wear, Target added features like diaper openings for bigger children, zip-off sleeves, and hidden snap and zip seams near the back, front, and sides. With more ways to put the clothes on and take them off, the hope is that kids and parents will have a less stressful time getting ready in the morning than they would with conventionally tailored apparel.

The new clothing will retail for $5 to $40 when it debuts exclusively online on October 22. You can get a sneak peek at some of the items below.

Adaptive jacket from Target.
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Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

[h/t PopSugar]

All images courtesy of Target.

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