Parental Leave Policy: Best Practice Guide for HR Professionals in Asia

October 5, 20169:45 am927 views

There are many considerations involved with instituting a global parental 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.

Within APAC, companies in Australia (53%), India (37%) and New Zealand (33%) are most likely to provide this leave above statutory minimum, while those in Indonesia (5%) and Malaysia (5%) are least likely.

Parental leave to evolve with family definitions

We all recognize that employee benefits have come to play a more significant role in the overall employee value proposition. Historically available for mothers to care for their newborn in the months following childbirth, parental leave policies have now expanded in scope.

As the definition of families continues to evolve, more organizations are expanding leave policies to now include fathers, part-time employees and caregivers of parents to help ensure inclusivity among their workforce, although we see this trend more prevalent in the West than in Asia.

Unique cultural aspects influence Asian countries in global leave policy adoption

Despite the complexities involved with legislation for parental leave, organizations are making the benefit available to their workforce. According to Mercer’s new Global Parental Leave report, more than one-third of organizations 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 program that may be used by either parent.

While over 44% employers in Hong Kong provide maternity leave above the statutory minimum, only 13% of those in Indonesia do so according to this report – a reflection of disparities in talent management practices across Asia.

Over 84% of employers in India now offer paternity leave beyond the statutory minimum, as the social fabric moves away from the traditional ‘joint’ families to ‘nuclear’ families in India with the onus of childcare borne entirely by working married couples.

A similar cultural aspect reflects in the Philippines with 79% of the employers providing lactation facilities at work, given that the Philippines has the highest labour force participation of women in the workforce.

Thinking about policies: What are the needs and emotional drivers of your workforce?

Enhanced leave programs are becoming a valuable tool for attracting and retaining top talent. 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.

More and more organizations are also expanding their parental leave policies to accommodate the needs of their workforce. As a result, they are considering “non-traditional” types of leave that include parental leave for part-time employees; support programs for parents, employees, and managers; time off, separate from sick leave, to recover from miscarriage; and time away to care for family members.

More progressive companies are acknowledging that eldercare is as important as childcare, especially as the population ages and more working couples need to devote time to elderly family members.

Moreover, they understand that giving women more responsibilities in the workplace is only part of the resolve to bring about gender equality. Initiatives like paternity and family care leave not only give both gender the ability to care for children and parents, but are also great retention tools.

Taking a proactive approach to understand the emotional drivers of different workforce segments can enable progressive employers in Asia to introduce policies which cater to the evolving needs of all the segments, while also bolstering their employer brands by providing the most important element in any employee value proposition – that of care.

Author credits: Puneet Swani, Partner and Information Solutions & Rewards Practice Leader – Asia, Middle East and Africa, Mercer

 

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