Companies beginning to expand parental leave

Workers at several companies can expect changes to their employers’ current parental leave policies, according to new research by Mercer, though efforts are still not picking up as fast as some employees would like.

Twelve percent of about 1,200 companies in 50 countries surveyed are considering implementing a global parental leave policy, according to Mercer’s 2016 Global Parental Leave report. Meanwhile, 52% of companies — predominantly in male-dominated sectors — are not considering an option that extends state or country statutory policies.

For example, 17% and 32% of companies in the transportation equipment and mining sectors, respectively, have a global parental leave policy; however, 0% of companies in both sectors plan on expanding paternity days offered to their male-dominated workforce.

See also: 3 tips for building a better parental leave policy

“We’re still stuck in the norm in the male-dominated professions: Men focus on their work outside the home,” says Gary Barker, president and CEO of Promundo, a Washington, D.C., based gender justice advocacy group. “In some sectors where men are worried about income and keeping their jobs, they’re less likely to be demanding leave.”

Barker says those sectors are also more volatile, thus families are less likely to demand leave and more employers are unlikely to feel the pressure to provide it.

Meanwhile, 67% of companies — most of which have more than 5,000 employees and $500 million in annual revenues — offer parental leave, a broad definition that can include shared leave either parent may use, leave for both parents, or leave for parents with an adopted child, according to the survey. Only 19% of companies cover maternity, paternity, adoptive or parental leave.

See also: Flexibility most important benefit for working parents

According to the survey, 94% of the companies with a global parental leave policy include maternity leave, vs. the 76% that offer paternity leave. The gap is typically fueled by government legislation.

Of the 35 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — a distinction for highly developed economies — the United States is the only one that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave; companies are required to offer a minimum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave to expecting mothers. Likewise, the U.S. is one of nine OECD countries without paternity leave policies.

While many countries offer legally mandated paid maternal leave, fewer governments have moved to implement statutes that would guarantee leave for fathers on the same scale, for either parent in adoptions, or for same-gender couples with a newborn or adopted child.

See also: Family-friendly benefits gaining momentum

“We do see men in workplaces where there’s more equal division” wanting to do their portion of the care at home and taking paternity leave to do so, Barker says.

He notes the biggest help for women is if their spouse is doing his or her share at home, and he expects trade unions and employee associations to join the push for parental leave.

“Even if it takes years and years to do it, it matters if countries offer a guarantee of paid leave,” Barker says. “[We need] the corporate sector to show this is the new normal.”

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