Companies Share Maternity-Leave Innovations

March 12, 2015 7:44 pm

By Barbara Frankel

Maternity Leave

Photo by Shutterstock

The United States is one of the only countries in the world that does not mandate that companies offer paid maternity leave. But private industry—especially progressive companies in the DiversityInc Top 50—are leading the way in creating extended paid leave and easier transitions for working moms.

Companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture and KPMG (Nos. 5, 12 and 21, respectively, in the Top 50) have generous maternity-leave policies and also offer paternity leave and adoption leave.

But they are the exception rather than the norm in this country.

Have Paid Parental Leave

DI Top 50 U.S. (SHRM) Global (ILO)
100% 12% 92%

Globally, the average time off is three months, while at many DiversityInc Top 50 companies it is between three and six months off. How much of that is paid varies widely.

Here are some best practices on maternity (and paternity) leave:

At PricewaterhouseCoopers, women typically combine different types of paid time off to create their maternity leave, says Jennifer Allyn, Managing Director, Diversity & Inclusion. The company’s recent study on female Millennials found they highly value flexibility. At PwC, the most popular amount of maternity leave is 16 weeks, but it is a combination of the following:

• Parental leave of 6 weeks (this is offered to both women and men, birth and adoptive parents).

• Short-term disability of 8–12 weeks depending on the state and/or type of birth (for example, you get more disability for a C-section and 4 weeks before the birth in California vs. only 2 weeks prior in New York).

• Paid vacation of 4 weeks, for the majority of professionals. Also, vacation days accrue when an employee is out on leave so most moms get additional days of vacation to use.

Accenture just announced it is doubling its maternity-leave benefits by offering up to 16 weeks of paid leave for full- and part-time workers in the U.S. The new policy also offers up to 8 weeks of paid parental leave for other primary caregivers after the birth or adoption of a child.

“Providing our people with these career opportunities that are unmatched in the industry means that we must help them navigate the choices and challenges of caring for a new child while they continue pursuing their careers,” said Stephen J. Rohleder, Group Chief Executive – North America. “These expanded benefits will help us attract, retain and inspire the best people.”

The company also created an extremely flexible workplace. Executives such as Shelly Swanback, who leads Global Business Operations for Accenture Digital and has two children, say the flexibility has enabled them to thrive professionally and personally. And the company recently completed research on how multitasking can hurt women’s careers.

KPMG has up to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of parental leave for primary caregivers and two weeks for non-primary caregivers in the United States.

Vodafone, which only has 500 U.S. employees and thus is ineligible to compete in the DiversityInc Top 50, recently announced it will let returning mothers work 30-hour weeks while being paid for full-time work for the first six months back at work.