More major companies are recognizing the importance of providing paid leave and other benefits for both salaried and hourly workers–and doing this without government intervention and at least in part as a response to the improved economic outlook of the country.

The New York Times reports in a story headlined "Salaried or Hourly? The Gaps in Family-Friendly Policies Begin to Close":

On Wednesday, Starbucks announced raises and stock grants for all employees in the United States, along with new benefits aimed specifically at workers with family caregiving responsibilities: paid time off to care for sick family members and paid paternity leave for hourly employees.

It followed the announcement by Walmart this month that it was raising pay and adding family-friendly benefits. It gave full-time hourly workers the same paid parental leave as salaried ones and said it would help pay for adoptions, including for hourly workers.

It’s a sign that the effects of low unemployment have reached companies that rely on low-wage workers. Both companies also credited tax cuts.

“It brings the talent we’re looking for, and industry-leading retention,” said Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman. The company had been planning to add benefits for a while, he said, but the corporate tax cuts “were an accelerator.”

Women benefit from these changes:

By focusing on family-friendly benefits, companies are also catching up to the fact that family life has changed faster than workplace or public policies. In families of all income levels, it’s more common for both parents to work or women to be the breadwinners, and the lack of family-friendly benefits has led todeclining labor force participation as people struggle to combine work and parenthood.

Benefits like paid parental leave are a crucial factor for people, especially women, in continuing to work. Yet hourly workers, who generally have the most need for paid parental leave, have also been the least likely to get it. Only recently have more companies begun to change that.

The New York Times, ironically, doesn't quite get the point of its own story. It chidingly points out that the U.S.  "is the only industrialized country not to mandate paid parental leave. "

But the real point is that these companies are voluntarily offering these benefits and offering them at a time when the economy is such that they can afford to do so without facing economic conditions that force them to cut back on hiring. This seems to be lost in the mandate mentality that infuses this otherwise positive story.