Volvo adopts 24-week gender-neutral paid parental leave policy

Volvo Cars is increasing paid parental leave for employees globally up to six months regardless of gender, the company announced this week.

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The policy gives two options to all employees with at least one year’s service: either a total of 24 weeks of leave at 80% of their base pay by default, which can be taken anytime within the three first years of parenthood, or 19 weeks of 100% paid parental leave beginning within 36 months of birth. The policy applies to all legally registered parents, including adoptive, permanent foster care and surrogate parents, as well as non-birth parents in same-sex couples. The new policy took effect April 1.

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The employer’s announcement comes as many companies take strides to help employees balance their work and home lives. Many employers looked at, and increased, paid parental leave in recent years, though that attention shifted elsewhere over the last year as organizations embraced other benefit and health strategies as they tried to help workers coping with COVID-19. Although generous paid parental leave is often a top benefit desired by employees, only 27% of employers offer leave for new parents, according to the latest available data from the Society for Human Resource Management.

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Related: The year that changed benefits: How COVID reframed HR support

Volvo’s paid parental leave program comes at a good time: Scores of research finds that female workers, in particular, are expected to leave the workplace after struggling to take care of their family and careers during the pandemic.

“When parents are supported to balance the demands of work and family, it helps to close the gender gap and allows everyone to excel in their careers,” Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in a statement.

See also: Working women are struggling: 4 ways HR leaders can help

Volvo’s program is unique in that the company opted in its 40,000-plus employees around the globe into the policy. It did so to encourage participation in the program as a number of obstacles–including parents’ concerns around the potential impact taking leave might have on their team, fear around long-term career opportunities and a cultural mindset about what is expected of fathers in the workplace and at home–often limit the uptake of parental leave.

The carmaker says its new global policy is inspired by national legislation in its home market of Sweden, famous around the globe for its generous parental leave arrangements, which have delivered tangible benefits for parents and children alike in recent decades. It follows a parental leave pilot program launched in its Europe, Middle East and Africa region in 2019, in which 46% of all applicants were fathers.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.