Thursday, April 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Cigna to provide workers 8 hours paid time off for volunteering

The health insurer estimates that if all 26,000 employees took advantage of the program, more than 200,000 hours of time would be donated to nonprofits.

Cigna to provide workers 8 hours paid time off for volunteering

I have yet to get a press release from a company that says it will not be supporting a park clean-up or homeless shelter repainting.

Not a day goes by that some business doesn’t try to convince me or another reporter to write about its Haiti donation or soup-kitchen volunteer work.

You didn’t read about the thousands of Comcast Corp. employees that turned out for volunteer projects on Saturday’s Comcast Cares Day. Or last Wednesday, when more than 250 Aramark Corp. workers helped spruce up areas in North Philadelphia and Camden.

In fact, “free” volunteering almost seems to have become a routine cost of doing business.

Cigna Corp. really will be putting a “cost” on it because as of July 1, the Philadelphia health insurer will offer all employees up to eight hours of paid time off for volunteer activities per year.

If all 26,000 workers were to respond to the initiative Cigna will announce Wednesday, it would total 208,000 hours of donated time.

The Washington, D.C.-based Independent Sector estimates the 2009 value of a volunteer hour was $20.85, up from $20.25 in 2008. So the value of Cigna’s program would be up to $4.3 million.

Gianna Jackson, executive director of the Cigna Foundation, said the new program is meant to enhance what Cigna employees have been doing for years and encourage even more volunteering.

It’s rare for companies to provide paid time off for volunteering. KPMG’s Volunteer Time Release program permits partners and staff to volunteer up to 12 hours a year. The limit is 10 hours for a program at accounting rival PricewaterhouseCoopers.

To take advantage of Cigna’s effort, an employee must coordinate with his or her manager and choose a project from a registry of 75 approved charitable organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the American Cancer Society.

The goal certainly is to help nonprofits further their missions, but the process that Cigna has set up also is aimed at helping employees learn leadership and teamwork skills, Jackson said.

It’s up to Jackson to coordinate supply and demand: the employees seeking to serve and the nonprofits beseeching for help. “I expect to overwhelmed,” she said. “In a good way.”

Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
About this blog
Mike Armstrong blogs about Philadelphia corporations and business-related topics. Contact him at 215-854-2980. Reach Mike at marmstrong@phillynews.com.

Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
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