Is your policy helping to boost employee retention? Maternity leave mandates typically vary by country. In the U.K., for example, women are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, regardless of length of service or the number of hours they’ve worked, and are eligible for statutory maternity pay for 39 weeks.
For the first six, women are paid 90 percent of their average weekly earnings, before tax. They’ll receive £139.58 or 90 percent of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the remaining 33 weeks. Employers are responsible for paying the cash benefits but are reimbursed for 92 percent by the government.
The Canadian government’s Employment Insurance program, funded by premiums deducted from workers’ wages or salary, provides maternity benefits for 17 weeks to biological mothers whose normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40 percent because they are pregnant or have recently given birth.
For most recipients, the basic rate is 55 percent of their average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount (the maximum annual insurable earnings amount, as of 2015, is $49,500, and the maximum benefit amount Is $524 a week).
In the U.S., on the other hand, paid maternity leave is not guaranteed. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies with more than 50 employees to let workers take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave once their child is born or adopted. Paid leave, though, isn’t necessarily the norm. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, just 12 percent of U.S. private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer.
In the U.S. — and in other countries where governmentally subsidized maternity leave programs are present — companies that support maternity leave, either financially or in other ways, often see related benefits. Seventy-four percent of organizations said paid maternity leave had a moderate to high effect on employee retention, according to a WorldatWork survey.
(To view how much time off various nations offer, check out the Atlantic’s map; generally, the time amount ranges from Australia’s 14 to 25 week range to 52 weeks or more, offered in Russia.)
Time off, however, is just one aspect of supporting new mothers. Could one of the following scenarios work at your company?
Look into other options if you’re a small company without the ability to fully fund leave: In some instances, companies may want to provide maternity leave, but are unable to afford to. If that’s the case, consider helping employees find alternative solutions. In the U.S., for example, workers may be able to use short-term disability benefits, if their company provides them (in some states, they’re required) for maternity leave, which will cover a portion or all of their salary.
Check into the cost of adding the insurance, if you don’t already offer it, or, if you do, communicate to employees that short-term disability may be an option — including any requirements, such as an employee agreeing to pay a portion of the insurance ahead of time to later use it for leave.
Set guidelines to control cost: Businesses that are concerned about the impact of instituting a maternity leave program and possible related abuses don’t have to offer it to all employees. The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act guidelines suggest limiting benefits to employees who have worked at your organization for at least 12 months for at least 24 hours a week. FMLA also recommends setting a time limit, such as 12 weeks, and stipulations about how much pay employees will receive — either full, partial or no pay.
Try an unconventional leave tactic: Some employers are concerned employees who plan to transition to a stay-at-home role will take advantage of paid leave and never return. To encourage employees to come back — and truly use the opportunity as a loyalty and employee retention building experience — you may want to consider offering additional incentives, such as providing a return-to-work bonus or letting employees purchase or repay longer paid leave periods, two suggestions the Australian government makes in its parental leave best practice guide.
Consider a comprehensive approach: Larger organizations typically have more leeway to institute a maternity leave program. To ensure fairness, some are creating blanket policies that address every employee equally, regardless of location. Telecommunications provider Vodafone, for example, announced recently that it would be introducing a global maternity policy, effective in all areas it operates — including Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. — that includes a minimum of 16 weeks maternity leave at full pay. New mothers are able to return to work at full pay, working 30 hours a week, for the first six months.
Vodafone’s Organisation and People Development Director told the BBC that Vodafone’s policy was created, in part, to recruit and retain female employees, which comprise 35 percent of the company’s workforce.
Promote a supportive environment: No matter what size your organization is, creating an atmosphere in which maternity leave is encouraged — instead of merely allowed — is a crucial part of getting employees to accept and use a leave program. Nearly half of U.K. mothers don’t use their entire maternity leave, according to a survey from the National Childbirth Trust; 47 percent said they returned early because of job security concerns.
Your maternity leave program will undoubtedly need to be tailored to your organization, whether it’s a large corporation that operates in multiple markets or a small company with just a few employees. (For more tips, view Inc.’s How to Create a Maternity Leave Policy article.)
Studies have shown that working parents also highly value the ability to have a flexible work schedule. Mothers ranked flex time, in fact, at the top of Working Mother’s list of important workplace benefits, higher than paid maternity leave, telecommuting and childcare benefits.
If your organization doesn’t currently offer a flexible work policy, our flexible hours best practice tips can help you initiate one that will give employees a schedule that lets them focus on both family and work — and also help your employee retention efforts by providing a major incentive to stay with your organization.