More than 20 years ago, the company decided to formulate a unique program based on its product lines and casual-lifestyle emphasis. Accordingly, the company's Outdoor Experience Allowance (OEA), furnishes a 50 percent subsidy to a variety of activities that promote adventures and experiences. The program, originally designed to reflect the company's earlier emphasis on outdoor gear, has expanded to include all types of activities—400 to 500 associates each year use the allowance to cover golf lessons, mountain climbing, downhill cross-country skiing, as well as group activities such as white-water rafting, hiking and horseback riding.
In addition to the OEA, the company developed Bauer Activities & Recreation Club, an organized effort encouraging people to get to know each other throughout the organization. More than 600 associates have participated in a variety of leisure activities such as wine tasting, ceramics, cooking, hiking, trail riding, as well as organized evenings involving the Seattle Opera and Seattle Mariners baseball team.
Emergency Child Care
Underscoring Eddie Bauer's commitment to young and old, the company inaugurated its Kid Care Backup program close to the same time it rolled out its elder-care benefits program in 1994. "We felt it made sense to provide child-care backup in emergency situations," says Sue Storgaard, director of work/life services. When an associate has a compelling need to be at work and suddenly is faced with a mildly ill child, the employee simply calls one of the Kid Care Backup resources. Eddie Bauer covers 50 percent of the cost of this program.
As part of the program, the company researches the adequacy of facilities and ensures that they meet parents' varied criteria for such factors as the ratio of children to caretakers. To avoid extensive work time on the telephone, the service also will research which facilities have child-care openings according to geographical necessity.
To help associates adopt children, Eddie Bauer reimburses up to $2,000 (a common figure for U.S. companies providing the benefit, according to the National Adoption Center) in covered adoption expenses for every successful or attempted adoption. This includes agency placement costs, legal fees and court costs, medical expenses of the birth mother, medical expenses of the child prior to adoption, temporary foster care, immigration, immunization and translation fees, as well as travel expenses directly related to the adoption process. "We felt there was a strong need to provide assistance to anyone with a new child," said Storgaard.
Eddie Bauer Adoption Assistance provides educational materials and articles to help both parents prepare for inherent issues that may surface and learn basic new parenting skills.
All full-time and part-time regular-status associates are eligible for adoption benefits within 30 days of becoming regular status. In addition, the company permits 80 hours of paid leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child. Part-time associates are eligible for 40 hours.
Group Mortgage HOME Programs
Eddie Bauer recognized that purchasing and selling a home can be an exhaustive and confusing process. It also eats into professional time. To help make it easier, the company partnered with a national mortgage company to serve as a resource on loan approvals, financing and other pertinent home-buying issues.
Eddie Bauer's HOME program provides all its associates with a list of preferred mortgage lenders in a geographical area, free credit report and document preparation, plus a choice of two plans that offer items such as discounts on title insurance, appraisal fees and a point-reduction option. Associates also receive a slight reduction on interest rates. Loan processing is guaranteed within 72 hours of application and can be completed by phone, by mail or in person.
Workforce, April 1997, Vol. 76, No. 4, p. 89.