In the global contest to attract and retain top talent, parental leave has become one of the key pieces in an organisation’s framework of employee benefits.
But, as Mercer’s 2016 Global Parental Leave Report makes clear, parental leave is no longer about giving new mums a few weeks off after the arrival of their little one. In fact, parental leave has moved on from being practically synonymous with maternity leave to now include many different forms of leave to accommodate more diverse family arrangements.
Across the world, parental leave now increasingly covers everything from maternity, paternity and primary caregiver leave for both opposite and same sex couples, to adoption leave and leave for miscarriages as distinct from regular sick leave. Globally and regionally, Australia compares favourably on most of the report’s rankings. We have the highest percentage (77%) of organisations that provide maternity leave above the statutory minimum (which also ranks us third in the global survey). Almost a quarter of Australian organisations said that they were planning to increase the number of paternity leave days.
The drivers for this generational change continue to reinforce each other. At the same time that Parental Leave benefits become more adaptive, inclusive and innovative, nine in ten employers are saying that the already intense competition for talent in 2016 is only likely to increase. Add in changing demographics, social attitudes and a push for greater gender equity, and it’s clear to see why the report concludes that organisations seeking to attract and retain employees partially through the benefits they offer, “are making perhaps their biggest changes to parental leave policies since adopting these benefits.”
In this piece, the first of a two-part series, we address two key themes of the report – Global Parental Leave Trends and Eligibility for Supplemental Leave. In the next, we will look at the prevalence of global parental leave policies, adoption leave and family care leave.
1. Global Parental Leave Trends
The Mercer Report showed that over a third of the 1200 responding organisations across 50 countries said that they had a global parental leave policy, with another 12% considering implementing one. Almost half of organisations provided above the limit leave provisions for new mums and approximately one in four globally and in the Asia-Pacific provide some form of paternity leave. Over a quarter of organisations globally also provide adoption leave.
Moreover, 38% provide paid paternity leave above the statutory minimum and several countries mandate a parental leave program that may be used by either parent.
Reflecting not only the changing global mix of Parental Leave provisions but the way organisations view the use of them, the report also noted shifting attitudes towards fathers taking paternity leave. More than one in four responding organisations said that they actively encouraged eligible employees to take paternity leave through integrating it as part of their culture.
“As benefits play a more significant role in employees’ choice of employer, parental leave policies are expanding beyond traditional maternity leave provisions,” said Ilya Bonic, Senior Partner and President of Mercer’s Talent business.
“Parental leave policies can have a positive effect on both employees and employers – they help the workforce maintain a better work-life balance, especially the younger generation, and they promote the company as a more attractive place to work, improving retention during a time of continued demand for highly-skilled talent.”
2. Eligibility for Supplemental Leave
While Mercer’s 2016 Global Parental Leave Report shows that nearly two-thirds of organisations worldwide provide maternity leave for only the birth mother, nearly a quarter of organisations provide this leave to the primary caregiver irrespective of gender.
When it comes to supplemental paternity leave, over half of organisations define eligibility based on the birth father only. However, as a nod to more progressive attitudes and policy, over a third use the widest possible definition, taking in the birth father or secondary caregiver, regardless of gender.
In Australia, three quarters of organisations have expanded their eligibility for supplemental maternity leave to include the birth mother or primary caregiver, regardless of gender. Just one in five organisations restricts it to the birth mother only while 6% only allow supplemental leave for females. The numbers are approximately the same for supplemental paternity leave, meaning Australian organisations are twice as likely as global organisations to use the broad definition of paternity leave.
"With evolving gender roles and defining families to include same-sex parents, many organisations are modifying their parental leave programs to accommodate their changing workforce,” said Bonic. “Additionally, some employers are even expanding their policies beyond mandates since leave is becoming a valuable tool for finding and keeping the best talent and promoting equality.”
Gender equality at work depends on gender equality at home. The provision and take up of parental leave by Dads is a vital step in any employers efforts to create workplaces where women and men can equally thrive.
Are your parental leave policies truly aligned with what your employee’s want? To discuss this or any other gender equality issues, contact us using the below form.
Part 2 of this report can be found here.