Organisations are expanding benefits offered by parental leave policies

27 September 2016

The changing demands of employees is, alongside the growing battle for talent and the continued drive for good employership, spurring corporates globally to improve their HR strategies around child care. While maternity leave has been well embedded for some time now, HR executives are increasingly expanding the scope of and benefits offered by their parental leave policies. As a result, paternity, adoption and family care schemes are enjoying growing acceptance.

A new study by Mercer (‘Global Parental Leave’), based on respondents from over 50 countries, finds that over the past few years a growing number of organisations globally have been expanding their HR policies for parental leave – paid or unpaid leave provided to care for a newly born or adopted child. Today, 36% of companies have a global policy in place for parental leave, up from less than 30% years ago. A further 12% of corporates surveyed says they are seriously considering establishing one in the years to come.

Overview of Parental Leave Policies

Maternity leave

Together with the growing adoption of a corporate-wide parental leave strategy, firms are also enlarging the scope of their policies, with down the line more benefits being passed on to employees. Not surprisingly, maternity leave is the most included form of leave at companies that host a global programme – on the back of the heritage that such leave is made available for mothers to care for their new-born in the months following childbirth. The benefits related to maternity leave however vary considerably across regions, countries and states, as eligibility requirements for statutory maternity leave are typically postulated by ‘local’ legislation.

Companies can however offer more generous maternity policies than the statutory ruling, often with the aim of stimulating a good workplace. Previous research from Mercer for instance found that the average maternity leave period for mothers can range from anywhere between 49 weeks in Norway to a meagre 9 weeks in the UAE. Across the board, employees worldwide have nevertheless witnessed a significant increase in maternity benefit generosity.

Leave Types Included in Global Policies - Percentage by Companies

Mercer’s 2016 Global Parental Leave report finds that, of the companies that have a maternity leave scheme in place, 64% provide the benefit to the birth mother only. 24% have opened the scheme’s eligibility requirements to include that of the primary caregiver (regardless of gender), while 12% rule that the primary caregiver is only eligible if the person is female. In comparison, organisations have a slightly more progressive policy in place for paternity leave (the time a father takes off work at the birth or adoption of a child), with 54% of firms only allowing the birth father to make use of policies, while 34% open up their scheme to take into account the rights of the primary caregiver, regardless of gender. 

Maternity Leave Eligibility - Worldwide

Paternity leave

On average, paternity leave is the second most offered policy of the four main types of parental leave – maternity, paternity, adoption and family care – at companies with a global scheme in place, at 76%. Paternity leave is, contrary to maternity leave, not a statutory requirement in many countries, but the study finds that globally and regionally, approximately one-third of companies (38%) provide paid paternity leave above the statutory minimum to their employees, typically between two to five days at the time of birth.

US-based companies are the most advanced in offering paternity leave above the statutory requirement, followed by organisation located in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada. The top ten is rounded off by India, Hong Kong, Argentina, Singapore, Japan and Ireland.

Countries with best paternity leave schemes

Going forward its use is foreseen to become more prevalent, to help grow inclusivity among the workforce, especially as the definition of families continues to progress to include same-sex parents. The majority of organisations surveyed with a paternity leave programme in place say they are contemplating on increasing the number of paternity days, although significant variations exist in the time frame of their plans. The high-tech and banking sectors have drafted the most reformist plans – more than 10% of the companies in these two sectors state they are planning to raise the time fathers can take off for child care. Two sectors stand out as the least likely to restructure: mining & metals and transport & equipment.

 Improvements in paternity leave by industry

Attitudes toward fathers taking paternity leave are shifting too, with nearly half of the organisations indicating that “most” of their eligible fathers (or the primary caregivers) are using their statutory paternity leave, while 49% are inclined to make use of additional company-provided days. To support furthers’ uptake, 42% of the respondents state that their enterprise is actively encouraging fathers to embrace the available schemes in place.

Attitudes towards paternity leave

Adoption leave

The authors further find that more than one-quarter (29%) of companies worldwide provide adoption leave beyond what is required by law – this practice is highest in the Americas and lowest in Asia Pacific. Again the US is the most progressive country, and the positions between number two to four go to the same nations as for paternity leave: Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada. Argentina slots a fifth position, with India, Mexico, Ireland, South Africa and Singapore closing the top ten countries that lead the pack when it comes adoption schemes.

Regions with best adoption leave schemes

Furthermore, when asked how they handle adoption leave for same-sex couples, 87% of companies indicate the leave is handled in the same manner as opposite-sex couples. “Adoption leave, like other leaves, helps employers accommodate more diverse family structures, which are now commonplace among their employee population,” comments Ilya Bonic, Senior Partner and President of Mercer’s Talent business.

The Top Ten Countries Providing Paternity Leave

Family care leave

Family care leave, which provides employees with time-off (either paid or unpaid) to care for their loved ones, is offered to their employees by two-thirds (67%) of companies worldwide. Although this includes all types of care, including for their spouse, parents, parents-in-law or siblings, it frequently includes care for their children. 97% of the family care schemes in place specify policies for care of employee’s children, while also care for an opposite-sex spouse and parents are much included, at 89% and 85% respectively. While the length of paid leave is typically only a few days, some countries and corporates allow for an extended period of unpaid family leave.

Family members covered by family leave schemes

Reflecting on the key trends in the corporate child care landscape, Bonic says that, besides wider adoption of the classic variants, parental leave policies are gradually expanding beyond traditional maternity leave provisions to include ‘non-traditional’ types of leave. Examples range from parental leave for part-time employees and support programmes for stakeholders (parents, employees, and managers) to time off to recover from miscarriage (separate from sick leave) and time away to care for children with special needs.

Establishing good policies should however not just be seen as a good for employees, it ultimately is likely to also prove fruitful to employers themselves. Bonic: “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.” In particular in light of the growing battle for highly-skilled talent globally, she highlights the latter can provide a highly welcomed boost to retention rates and to the attractiveness of the company in the labour market.



Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.