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Companies are making big changes to their parental leave policies

Along with 401(k) matches, generous paid vacation and even student debt repayment help, an accommodating parental leave policy is becoming de rigueur. More companies are starting to catch on to what current and prospective employees want when it comes to benefits at work. A new report by Mercer on global parental leave policies shows employers are “beginning to expand these offerings as parental leave benefits become a frontline tool in the battle” to attract and retain talent.

In Mercer’s survey of more than 1,200 companies, 36% of firms said they have a parental leave policy — and of those firms, 94% have a maternity leave policy, 76% have paternity leave and 73% have an adoption leave included. And of the 64% of companies without a policy, 12% are considering implementing one.

In a previous survey, Mercer found that 63% of US employees said benefits are one of the reasons they work where they do.

“With benefits playing such a significant role in employees’ choice of employer, and with changing demographics, social attitudes, and a push for greater gender equality, companies worldwide are making perhaps their biggest changes to parental leave policies since adopting these benefits,” according to the Mercer report.

Indeed, a handful of companies in the tech and financial sectors have notably led the charge and set the standard for improved parental leave policies to help new parents, including Facebook (16 weeks paid parental leave), Virgin Management (one year), Bank of America (16 weeks), JPMorgan Chase (16 weeks) and Netflix (unlimited parental leave).

Maternity leave

Less than half (44%) of global companies say they provide maternity leave above the statutory requirement, Mercer found. Across regions, 51% of companies in the Americas provide maternity leave that exceeds federal requirements, compared to 43% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 38% in Asia Pacific.

Note that the US is ranked No. 1 in terms of having the most companies that provide maternity leave above the statutory minimum, because we have no mandatory paid maternity leave, though many companies offer some compensation for at least some part of the leave period.

(Almost all OECD countries offer paid maternity leave that lasts at least three months – with the United States being the only country to offer no statutory entitlement to paid leave on a national basis.)

Paternity leave

About one-third of companies globally (38%) provide paid paternity leave. Many countries don’t have a statutory paternity leave requirement, but it’s common for companies to offer two to five days of paid leave around the time of birth, Mercer says. A third of US companies provide leave for fathers above the legal requirement (but again, that number is likely skewed because the US has no mandatory policy for paid leave).

Like maternity leave, while some companies go above and beyond what’s technically required, the US is far behind other developed — and some undeveloped — countries. For instance, Finland mandates 54 working days of paid paternity leave, the UK has two weeks, and Tanzania has three days, according to the International Labour Organization.

Within industries, mining and metals firms are the most generous: 83% of companies provide maternity leave above the minimum, according to the report, compared with the global average of 44% of companies, according to Mercer. For paternity leave, the banking and financial services sector comes out on top, with 58% of companies giving dads leave beyond the minimum. The global average is 38%.