Catching up on global parental leave policies

October 22, 2018

Parental leave policies are constantly evolving. What many years ago was considered an extra-special benefit for women who had given birth is now a common organizational policy that applies to birth mothers, fathers, and, in some cases, same-sex couples and adoptive parents. Cultural evolutions are often the driving force as more and more regions across the globe have begun to recognize parents of all types. But these ideological global shifts mean that organizations are revisiting and revising their existing policies more frequently.

So, whether it’s for maternity leave benefits, paternity incentives, or adoption initiatives, you’ll find that many companies are becoming more flexible in their offerings as time progresses. In this overview of evolving parental leave policies around the world, packed with data from Mercer’s Global Parental Leave reports, you’ll get an exclusive opportunity to compare how your company’s benefits are stacking up against today’s top global trends.

Maternity Leave Benefits and Trends: Still Leading the Race

As you’ve probably guessed, maternity leave benefits are still the most popular type of parental leave being provided by companies around the world. In fact, 2018’s research found that the vast majority of organizations offer maternity leave.

Beyond Statutory

Maternity leave is the most common statutory requirement for parental leave. As such, it is legally required in all of the markets covered in the Global Parental Leave survey, with certain countries incorporating maternity leave into other statutes, such as FMLA in the US. The statutory length of leave is not always sufficient though; 24% of US companies offer more maternity leave time than required by statute while globally, 17% of companies offer leave beyond the statutory requirements. In contrast, paid maternity leave is not always guaranteed by law. For example, the US is one of the few countries that do not mandate paid time off for new mothers. Despite this, half of US survey participants provide a portion of paid leave.

This is just one example of how the specific legal requirements of a country determine the types and lengths of leave available provided within a market. In some situations, the length of this mandated maternity leave period is insufficient from the employee’s perspective. As a result, the decision to provide additional leave must be considered in the context of the statutory requirements and market expectations. On the other hand, statutory benefits may be more than sufficient in other markets.

Support Programs for Expecting Mothers

Expecting a child is an incredibly emotional experience and one that requires great planning, careful consideration, and no small amount of stress. As such, some companies have traditionally attempted to ease new mothers into the life-changing experience by offering diverse educational programs and other support initiatives.

Globally, most companies provide access to employee-assistance programs (58%), which are the most popular type of support offered to new mothers. However, companies in the Group of Seven (G7) and Emerging Seven (E7) markets differ in their approach to these support programs. Generally, companies in the G7 nations (e.g., US, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, and Canada) are more likely to provide support programs, especially employee-assistance ones. In fact, 86% of G7 respondents indicated that they offer these. Comparatively, only 33% of companies in E7 nations (China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, and Turkey) offer employee-assistance programs to new mothers.

Maternity Leave for Part-Time Employees

Full-time employees and part-time employees don’t always share the same level or extent of benefits. As of 2018, only 38% of international companies provide the same supplemental leave benefits to both part-time and full-time employees. However, another 29% do provide these level benefits on a prorated basis. The provision of full benefits is most common across Europe.

Paternity Leave: An Increasingly Popular Incentive Around the World

Organizational attitudes toward providing paternity leave are moving in a more positive direction, and an increasing number of companies are recognizing the innate value in offering programs and incentives which support fathers as they move into their new familial roles. In fact, as of 2018, an impressive 80% of respondents said they provide paternity leave, despite the fact that it’s not actually required in all markets. This is a slight increase from 2016, when only 76% of survey respondents indicated that their company included paternity leave in their global policy.

Looking at paternity leave trends through a more precise, country-oriented perspective, paternity leave is still not a statutory requirement in prominent G7 countries such as the US, Canada, Italy, and Japan. However, organizations in these countries are commonly providing paternity leave anyway, showing their tendency toward future-forward thinking. For example:

  • 91% of Italian companies are providing paternity leave despite not being legally required to do so.
  • 81% of Japanese companies are providing paternity leave despite not being legally required to.
  • 72% of Canadian companies are providing paternity leave despite there not being any legal requirement.
  • Though not a federal requirement in Canada, Quebec does mandate paternity leave.
  • In the US, though paternity leave is not a statutory requirement, some employees have access to FMLA.

It’s also worth noting that provision of these new paternity-based leave policies isn’t only beneficial to the employees themselves, but there are also many benefits for the companies! By offering these perks, employers present themselves as compassionate, progressive entities — an increasingly valuable image to maintain, especially for the younger generations of workers who are just entering into fatherhood for the first time.

Adoption Leave: A Unique Benefit With Unique Trends

More and more companies are also beginning to recognize the value of supporting parents who are adopting. As you can imagine, just like with paternity leave, these adoption benefits are also very helpful in assisting parents and can position employers as caring and progressive.

In general, employers tend to provide adoption leave to the primary and/or secondary caregivers of a recently adopted child, but as you might expect, the leniency of these benefits varies by countries. In 2016, 29% of global companies provided adoption leave above their local statutory requirements; this percentage was highest in the Americas (33%) and lowest in the Asia Pacific (22%).

Meanwhile, in the 2018 study, it was found that most of the participating companies throughout the world have some form of requirements set up for adoption leave. Today, it’s also fairly common for adoption leave to be fully paid, or at least a combination of paid and unpaid leave for both the primary and secondary caregivers receiving it.

Same-Sex Couples

In addition, it’s slowly becoming a more popular practice to offer adoption leave to same-sex couples. Of course, this practice varies greatly based on cultural, religious, and governmental environments, and the difference between the top and bottom rankings is significant: Canada (96%) and the United States (93%) vs. India (16%) and Singapore (14%).

However, with India’s recent decriminalization of same-sex relationships between consenting adults, there could be imminent changes to this trend in the near future. It will be interesting to see how these potential changes could impact other countries as employees start to use this landmark ruling to fight for rights in their own countries.

Want to Learn More?

All these findings were pulled directly from Mercer's US Global Parental Leave reports or Canada Global Parental Leave reports. However, what was featured here only scratched the surface of the many country-specific findings within.

Discover which companies throughout different countries are providing the statutory minimums for parental leave or going above and beyond to provide additional time off or pay. Also, analyze data related to organizational support programs, childcare assistance initiatives, paid-time-off trends, and other key competitive trends around the world. It’s the perfect resource for staying on top of global data and information related to parental leave.