Parenting and the progressive workplace, pt. 2
It’s time to step up the game
Surprisingly, the United States joins three other countries worldwide that do not have paid maternity leave, but there are some interesting statistics that other countries and companies are doing for mothers and fathers to bond with their new children and feel a measure of financial security.
The employment law in The Bahamas covers time off and pay requirements for maternity leave, family leave, coupled with income replacement from the National Insurance Board, but it has become glaringly obvious that our systems need to improve even though efforts have been made to improve conditions for mothers, and in some way, fathers. The provisions pale in comparison to what other countries are doing for working parents.
Bahamian law protects the pregnant employee from discrimination, victimization, and job loss, provides 12 weeks (60 working days) of paid leave after a year of continuous employment and an additional six weeks of unpaid leave in the event of medical issues. There is free immunization and pre- and post-natal care at public clinics at low or no cost, depending on the service.
The father can take up to five days of unpaid family leave or vacation time. The law does not speak to parents who adopt or use surrogate mothers. All new parents no matter the circumstances need time to adjust to their new roles and responsibilities, not to mention the demand on their bodies, minds, and spirit.
Unbelievable paid parental leave trends
Sweden tops the charts with 480 days of parental leave with 240 days awarded to the mother and father each at almost 80 percent pay for up to 390 of those days and the balance of the days paid at a flat rate. Parental leave can be taken up until a child turns eight years old. The leave accumulates with each child, so parents can rack up leave for all their children. This, however, does not apply to multiple births. Unemployed persons are also entitled to the leave.
The U.K. allows up to 280 days for new mothers and fathers, with parents receiving 90 percent pay for the first six weeks and then a flat rate for the duration thereafter.
Russia allows for 140 days, Brazil gives 120 days, with France and Spain following at 112 days. All provide 100 percent pay for the duration, with only Russia limited to new mothers.
Canada and Mexico both only provide paid leave for mothers, but still offer substantial assistance. Canada provides 119 days off at 55 percent pay while Mexico mandates 100 percent pay over a maximum of 84 days.
These are parental leave trends on a national level. Of course, companies are free to institute leave policies that can exceed what law allows. Here are a few amazingly progressive company leave policies:
• Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offers 52 weeks of paid time off for mothers and fathers that can be used during the first year of the child’s birth. Additionally, the foundation changed its vacation policy to unlimited time off.
• Spotify, the digital music service company, is offering six months’ parental leave to full time mothers and fathers that can be taken in full or spread over three years. This leave is available to adopting parents, parents using a surrogate and same-sex couples.
• Amazon not only increased its leave to mothers (20 weeks) and fathers (six weeks) but also launched Leave Share, which means parents can share their leaves with partners and spouses that don’t work with the company. If they choose to take it for instance, the mother can take 14 weeks of leave and share the other six weeks with her spouse or partner. Amazon will add the six weeks’ pay to her paycheck. Hopefully, the father’s company would allow him to take the leave.
Additionally, working parents need the village to effectively raise the child. Where are the supporting services like daycare and schools with extended hours beyond 6 p.m., and services that extend through the weekend and summer? Work hours have become longer to accommodate serving customers; this means that someone must work those hours. How does that affect parenting, especially in homes where there is only one active parent?
Countries and companies have created more support and flexible work schedules for parents such as working from home, working part time or working flexible hours to allow for parents to adjust and to accommodate new parental responsibilities. Twitter even instituted a program for breastfeeding mothers to ship their breast milk home if they are on a business trip.
Sweden offers a monthly child allowance up to the age of 16; along with free education up to university level; almost free healthcare; child-focused libraries with reading, painting, craft and other activities; and baby-friendly public areas.
The future is now
We can’t complain about societal ills like poor parenting; lack of parental support from fathers; at-risk behaviors in children and youth; and workplace challenges like absenteeism, turnover, low employee morale and diminished productivity if we don’t consider the things that can greatly impact employee engagement and productivity. For many a parent, they can be at work worrying about their child or having to take time off because of a sick child, or miss important moments in a child’s life because of work. The spillover effect is enormous on families and creates inefficiency, inequity, stress and imbalance in men, women and children. The time is now to open the conversation about supporting parents in a progressive workplace and, by extension, a progressive nation.
• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, and mentor who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals diagnose their people and performance problems and implement strategic solutions. For comments, queries and bookings, email email@example.com.