Berkshire Bank Enhances Paid & Protected Leave
for Employees Experiencing Gender-Based Violence
Berkshire Bank continues longstanding commitment to help address gender-based violence
BOSTON (October 15, 2020) – Berkshire Bank, a purpose-driven community bank with locations throughout New England, New York and the Mid-Atlantic, today announced enhanced protections that will provide its 1,500 employees with paid and protected leave to manage the consequences of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Berkshire Bank has partnered with FreeFrom, a non-profit creating pathways to financial security and long-term safety for survivors of gender-based violence, to increase its existing leave policies to benefit its employees.
The enhanced policy gives employees 15 days of leave a year to seek medical care, attend court proceedings, and relocate – all without missing a paycheck or depleting their accrued sick or vacation days. Since 2014, Berkshire Bank has had a domestic violence leave policy in place in compliance with relevant state laws. These new enhancements go beyond the mandated requirements of state laws to offer additional support for survivors and their families impacted by this type of abuse.
Berkshire Bank employees will also now have access to FreeFrom’s Compensation Compass, a tool that is designed to assist survivors of domestic abuse in understanding whether they are eligible for compensation to cover some of the costs of the harm they experienced. In addition, Berkshire plans to collaborate with FreeFrom as part of its Survivor Safety Banking Initiative to explore how to design products and policies to better support customers that have experienced or are experiencing violence or abuse, which coincides with Berkshire’s mission based approach to banking. This approach eliminates barriers to access for individuals of all backgrounds and experiences by providing innovative financial solutions including an online account opening experience that will help bring survivors into mainstream banking.
“Action matters, and we are proud to partner with FreeFrom to enhance our existing leave policies and provide additional resources for survivors of gender-based violence,” said Sean Gray, Acting CEO and President of Berkshire Bank. “As we honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, this enhancement for our employees and collaboration with FreeFrom is an important component to living our Be FIRST vision and values while building a successful and meaningful culture where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential.”
“COVID-19 has laid bare the staggering lack of infrastructure in place in the U.S. to support survivors,” said Sonya Passi, CEO of FreeFrom. “Disrupting the cycle of violence requires every member of our society to step up and take responsibility for solving this systemic problem. For employers, this means implementing policies that support employees who experience this type of harm in building the financial security they need to stay safe. With the implementation of their new survivor paid and protected leave policy, Berkshire Bank has emerged as a corporate leader in the movement against gender-based violence in the U.S.”
Berkshire Bank is a longstanding partner with non-profit organizations across its footprint working to address gender-based violence, such as the Elizabeth Freeman Center, Interval House, Casa Myrna and provides philanthropic support, volunteer services and financial coaching to help bring survivors into mainstream banking.
Learn more in FreeFrom’s recently released report, Survivors Know Best: How to Disrupt Intimate Partner Violence During COVID-19 and Beyond, available here.
About Berkshire Bank
Berkshire Bank is transforming into a 21st-century community bank with $13.1 billion in assets. We are pursuing purpose driven performance based on our Be FIRST corporate responsibility culture.
Berkshire Bank provides business and consumer banking, mortgage, wealth management, investment and insurance services through 130 branch offices in New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including Commerce Bank, a division of Berkshire Bank. Berkshire Bank was awarded the Top Corporate Steward Citizens award by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2019 for the small-middle market business category. Headquartered in Boston, Berkshire Hills Bancorp (NYSE: BHLB) is the parent of Berkshire Bank. To learn more, call 800-773-5601 or follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
FreeFrom is a national organization working to dismantle the nexus between intimate partner violence and financial insecurity. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 2 trans people in the U.S. will experience gender-based violence in their lifetime, and 99% of survivors also experience economic abuse.
FreeFrom believes that intimate partner violence is a systemic problem in our society and we severely lack the infrastructure to address it. FreeFrom’s work is to build that infrastructure by building capacity for the anti-violence movement, designing tech resources for survivors, creating peer networks that build survivors’ collective power, changing and creating state and federal laws, expanding the data and research that exists to support the field, and bringing in employers, banks, and other institutions as part of the ecosystem working to support survivor’s financial security and safety.
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