Unum Group, which is headquartered in downtown Chattanooga, is boosting its minimum pay to $15 an hour, extending parental leave benefits and adding to its charitable contributions after reporting record profits in 2017.

Growing up in Portland, Maine, where Unum is one of the biggest employers, Isabella Hilton knew she wanted to work for Unum after she moved to Chattanooga, where the insurance company is headquartered.

So last fall, the 18-year-old began her career as a medical records specialist at Unum, earning $11.72 an hour. On Thursday, she learned that she and more than 250 other workers in Chattanooga have even more reason to want to be with Unum. The company announced it is raising its base pay next month to $15 an hour, and also extending parental leave benefits and adding another $1 million to its annual community and charitable donations.

"I was very excited to hear the news and great to know that my employer is investing in me as much as I want to invest in the business," Hilton said. "This will definitely help me get enough money to go back to school — and also give some extra money to spoil my dogs at home."

After earning record profits in 2017 of nearly $1 billion — and predicting it should earn even more this year — Unum said it is sharing some of its wealth with its staff and communities where it operates. The company is offering another six weeks of paid parental leave for mothers and fathers employed at Unum and will increase the $12.4 million given to charitable organizations in 2016 by at least another $1 million.

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Unum Group, which is headquartered in downtown Chattanooga, is boosting its minimum pay to $15 an hour, extending parental leave benefits and adding to its charitable contributions after reporting record profits in 2017.

"These investments reflect our values and recognize the significant role that everyone at Unum plays in delivering for our customers," Unum President Rick McKenney said in a message to the nearly 10,000 employees of Unum across the country. "2017 was a great year, and one that would not be possible without the dedication of all of our people. We strive to be the employer of choice in each of our communities."

Unum is among a growing list of major companies this year that are providing bonuses, pay raises and benefit improvements to their employees as the economy improves, federal taxes are cut and the employment market tightens.

In his State of the Union address this week, President Donald Trump said the tax bill passed in December has already led employers to give bonuses or wage hikes to millions of workers.

"Since we passed tax cuts, over 3 million workers have gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands and thousands of dollars," Trump said.

In December, Trump signed a bill into law that lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. That tax cut, combined with expected increases in interest rates for Unum's investment portfolio and job gains to grow Unum's benefits business, should boost Unum's profits this year from 17 to 23 percent above the record high $994.2 million of net income recorded in 2017, according to company projections.

McKenney said the improved results also will help Unum expand its parental leave benefit, which will take effect later this year, to give six weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn, or a child placed through adoption or foster care. The benefit may be taken any time during the 12 months following birth, adoption or fostering.

"Paid parental leave allows parents to spend valuable time with children at a crucial point in their lives and can ease the transition back to work," McKenney said. "Importantly, it aligns with the leave benefits that we provide for many of our customers."

Erin Wiles, director of digital communications at Unum and mother of three children, recently returned to work after a maternal leave. Although she doesn't personally expect to benefit from the coming change in parental leave, she does think it will help many other parents and ultimately aid the company by helping to attract and keep the best employees.

"From my experience, I know the benefit that having this extra time with your child can make and I think this will be a real advantage for many people and hopefully a recruiting draw for our company," she said.

McKenney said making the additional $1 million in charitable contributions in support of Unum's local communities advances one of the company's core beliefs to give back to its communities through donations of time, talent and financial support.

"These investments will allow us to have an even greater impact in our support of education and other initiatives that are important to our people and our communities," McKenney said.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 423-757-6340.