According to Mercer’s new Global Parental Leave report, more than one-third of organisations worldwide have one centralised global policy that covers the various types of leaves available, including maternity, paternity, adoption, and parental. Moreover, 38% provide paid paternity leave above the statutory minimum and several countries mandate a parental leave programme that may be used by either parent. Enhanced leave programmes are becoming a valuable tool for attracting and retaining top talent.

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“As benefits play a more significant role in employees’ choice of employer, parental leave policies are expanding beyond traditional maternity leave provisions,” said Ilya Bonic, Senior Partner and President of Mercer’s Talent business.

“Parental leave policies can have a positive effect on both employees and employers – they help the workforce maintain a better work-life balance, especially the younger generation, and they promote the company as a more attractive place to work, improving retention during a time of continued demand for highly-skilled talent.”

As the definition of families continues to evolve, more organisations are expanding leave policies to include fathers, part-time employees and caregivers of parents to help ensure inclusivity among their workforce. While almost two-thirds (64%) of companies worldwide provide maternity leave for only the birth mother, 24% of companies provide this leave to the primary caregiver — regardless of gender.

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Despite criteria for leave eligibility varying by policy type, country, and company, on the whole, this progressive view of family and gender roles is more prevalent when it comes to defining eligibility for paternity leave. While 54% of companies define eligibility based on the birth father only, an additional 34% provide leave based on the broadest definition — birth father or secondary caregiver, regardless of gender.

“With evolving gender roles and defining families to include same-sex parents, many organisations are modifying their parental leave programmes to accommodate their changing workforce,” said Mr Bonic. “Additionally, some employers are even expanding their policies beyond mandates since leave is becoming a valuable tool for finding and keeping the best talent and promoting equality.”

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As the provisions of parental leave policies expand beyond traditional maternity leave, some employers have chosen to implement a global policy. There are many considerations involved with instituting a global leave policy. Besides addressing governmental and state legislation, policies need to accommodate a changing workforce, be generous yet cost-effective, and avoid unintended consequences, such as discouraging women from returning to the workforce or offering leave to fathers when taking it could be viewed negatively.

According to Mercer’s report, slightly more than one-third (36%) of the companies surveyed worldwide have a global parental leave policy covering multiple types of leave. Among companies with a global policy, 19% cover all four types of leave – maternity, paternity, adoption and parental. Moreover, of the two-thirds of companies that do not have a global policy, 12% are considering implementing one in the future.

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“The complexity of different local statutory requirements along with administrative intricacies may make a global parental leave policy seem impractical,” said Mr Bonic. “Despite these concerns, some compelling reasons – like no longer adhering to requirements that are not compatible with diversity and equity strategies and creating a level playing field for employees in all countries – have prompted companies to consider a global policy.”