By Janet Patton | Lexington Herald-Leader

Diageo, the owner of Bulleit bourbon, is giving new parents 26 weeks of paid parental leave. The policy covers all employees regardless of gender, whether they become parents through birth, surrogacy, adoption or foster care, the company said.

The new policy will start on July 1, the beginning of the financial year. Altogether, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Diageo employs more than 126 people in the state who will be eligible for the new leave policy.

The new family-leave policy will begin with North America, including Kentucky, Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and roll out globally.

Initially, in some countries, the policy will apply only to female employees. However, Diageo said it would set a global minimum standard of four weeks fully paid paternity leave in the majority of markets, with “a significant number” moving to 26 weeks of fully paid paternity leave.

According to its website, Diageo in North America employs about 2,600 people at 27 sites. In Kentucky, that includes the Bulleit distillery and, soon, visitor’s center near Shelbyville; the former Stitzel-Weller plant and visitor’s center in Louisville; and a distillery under construction in Marion County.

Diageo said the business “hopes the policy will support employees to experience the joy of raising a young family, while continuing to thrive at work and ensuring women and men are supported to have time with their new child, regardless of where they live and work.”

Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes announced the new policy at an investor’s conference in New York. Last month, the British-based Diageo announced a similar plan for employees in the U.K.

“We aim to continually build policies that are purpose-led, performance-enhancing and competitive in relation to our peer companies,” said Deirdre Mahlan, president of Diageo North America, in a news release. “We also hope to challenge the status quo and change the conversation.”

Diageo is a global spirits powerhouse: Besides Bulleit, brands include Guinness, Crown Royal, Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray, Captain Morgan, Baileys Smirnoff, J&B, Ketel One, Don Julio, Ciroc and many more.