Vodaphone made news after announcing a global shift in their maternity policy: not only will women be afforded 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, but they'll also be empowered to work 30 hour weeks (at full salary!) for six months after they return to work.
It's no secret that the US lags behind the rest of the world on paid leave for working mothers; we're one of only nine countries worldwide that doesn't mandate paid leave. So when companies like Vodaphone showcase innovative ways of being inclusive of women, it sends a signal that workplace equality is critical to the success of their business. A multi-national, $85 billion market cap company doesn't make a change like that without considering ROI.
Here are four ways your company, like Vodaphone, can reap the benefits when you implement a generous parental leave policy:
- When people feel valued, they're more likely to stick around. Continuing to send a paycheck when a woman is recovering from the birth of her child is a pretty effective way to tell an employee that you value her. Employee turnover is a huge cost to businesses, and having a baby is one of the main reasons women leave their jobs; in Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg cites that a staggering 43% of women left the workforce after having a baby. Companies like Google have hard and fast evidence now that paid leave correlates with retention, showing that when they upped their paid leave by 50% from 12 weeks to 18 weeks, they saw their retention rates increase too.
- If your employees aren't exhausted, they'll do a better job at their work. Everyone jokes about sleep deprivation with new parents, but it's very, very real--and has a major cognitive impact. Your memory is impaired, you're irritable (not great for teamwork), and you're more prone to take risks. Savvy policies like reduced workdays, flexible hours, and the ability to work from home give new moms a better shot at being well-rested and less distracted.
- Financially stable employees are better for business. Having a child is already an enormous financial burden on families, without taking into account loss of a salary for several months. Those lost wages can trigger a year or more of financial strain, and it reverberates through the economy. You may not be able to draw a straight line between the impact of financial hardship on employees and a company's bottom line, but when you take the lead on leave, you're advancing the economy as a whole.
- Lastly, you get great PR. As evidenced by this and the 75+ other articles about Vodaphone, that buzz not only helps to attract more outstanding talent, but it will also build your profile and bring in new customers. Someone in my Twitter feed wrote, "If Vodaphone had service in the U.S., I'd switch in a heartbeat."
Re-thinking your parental leave policy--and getting creative about giving women and men flexibility after welcoming a new baby--isn't just the right thing to do... it's the smart thing to do for your bottom line.
Allyson Downey is CEO and co-founder of weeSpring, a startup that helps new and expecting parents collect advice from their friends about what they need for their baby. She's currently writing a book for Seal Press about how to steer your career through pregnancy and early parenthood. She has an MBA from Columbia Business School, an MFA from Columbia University's School of the Arts, and a BA from Colby College. Follow her @allysondowney @wee_spring