Ridiculous, shortsighted, and downright pathetic are just a few of the words to accurately describe the current United States legislation, or lack thereof, for working mothers to receive a sufficient amount of paid time off for maternity leave.
“Too many talented women leave working life because they face a difficult choice between either caring for a newborn baby or maintaining their careers,” said Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao in an interview with CNBC.
According to their CEO, Vodafone recently unveiled a new maternity leave policy that will be globally applied to all of its operations worldwide, including the U.S.
The key items of the new parental leave policy are as follows:
- All globally operating companies will offer 16 weeks of full pay to expecting mothers, including those choosing adoption.
- For the first six months following a return from leave, new mothers will be able to work 30-hour weeks at full pay.
The policy does not distinguish between women giving birth and women who are adopting. It does not, however, include adoptive fathers. Pardon the pun, but “baby steps” toward a more updated policy nationwide are just fine for now, I suppose.
The six-month benefit of receiving full pay for just a 30-hour workweek is particularly impressive. It’s believed that the inspiration for it comes from legislation in Italy, where workers already receive full pay for 30-hour workweeks following their return from leave for up to a full year.
The first item is really just a step in the right direction for U.S. labor. Many other countries require companies to supply paid time off to expectant mothers. Consider the following mandatory benefits from other countries as a comparison as reported by Huffington Post:
- U.K. – 280 days at 90% pay (Yikes, that’s more than 9 months at 90% of full salary!)
- Russia – 140 days at 100% pay
- Brazil – 120 days at 100% pay
The list goes on and on. The fact is that most countries, some of which are far less developed, offer substantial benefits for expectant mothers, where the U.S. currently offers only unpaid time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). What we can hope for is that Vodafone’s new policy including U.S. workers may prompt some U.S.-based companies to follow suit and help American labor take continued steps in the right direction. Or more appropriately, perhaps the U.S. government will be inspired to step in and begin legislation to require paid time off appropriately.
It should be mentioned that Vodafone is not enacting this new policy for entirely altruistic purposes. The company estimates that businesses spend approximately $19 million more in recruiting and training replacement workers for women who depart the workforce after becoming mothers than they would if they just offered just 16 weeks of paid leave in the first place. Leave it to corporate America to be this profoundly shortsighted for such a long period of time.
Talent retention is a big driving force behind the new policy. Nonetheless, Vodafone deserves a round of applause for taking American business one step in the right direction toward the greater good. Now, if they could just change the policy slightly to include adoptive fathers, especially if they are single adoptive fathers. Oh yeah, baby steps…