Inclusive parental leave policies in a workplace refer to specific policies being put in place that help out new parents as much as possible, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, tenure, or how a child joins the family, including by adoption or surrogacy.
It’s important for businesses to intentionally develop inclusive policies and create a thriving workplace with a positive company culture. In fact, our survey data shows two thirds of employers have said these policies help to attract and retain top-performing employees.
Remote has looked at 11 different countries to reveal how inclusive their parental leave policies are and what country has the best policies in place. We surveyed both employers and employees to find out their attitudes toward inclusive parental policies and their experiences with them. We’ve also offered some advice on how employers can make their parental leave policies more inclusive.
Companies in many countries are legally required to offer parental leave to their employees when they welcome a child, but some employees are reluctant to take their full parental leave, with 15% saying they chose not to take the full amount. 10% of women took less than half of their maternity leave, and 7% of men took less than half of their paternity leave when having a child.
The pressure on parents to return to work sooner varies from industry to industry. Those working in legal are the least likely to take their full parental leave, with 21% of employees saying they went back to work before it was over. This is followed by employees working in education and those working in architecture, engineering and building, with 20% not taking their full parental leave.
Arts and culture workers are the most likely to take their full parental leave, with just 7% of employees going back to work before their leave ends. Sales, media and marketing employees come next, with 11% not taking their full leave.
Employers can influence their employees' decision to return to work sooner. When asking employers about their expectations for their employees on parental leave, 21% of them said they expect the primary caregiver to come back to work sooner than their full parental leave lasts, and 20% said they expect partners to come back before their full parental leave ends.
The stigma surrounding parental leave stems from old fashioned attitudes and the fear of falling behind in the work sphere. This leaves employees worried about taking their parental leave, with 32% of men and 24% of women saying they’re hesitant to take their full parental leave due to the fear of the stigma surrounding it.
Returning from parental leave can come with challenges within the workplace, with 18% of employees saying they have been held back from progressing at work since becoming a parent. Women are more likely to lose their opportunities to progress than men, with 21% of women compared to 16% of men saying they’ve been held back.
Younger people are more hesitant to take their full parental leave, with 40% of 16-24 year olds concerned about the stigma surrounding it. A third of 25-34 year olds (33%) are hesitant to take parental leave, as are a quarter of 35-44 year olds (25%).
Those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community are more likely to be hesitant due to stigma surrounding taking their full parental leave, with 43% compared to 23% of those that do not identify as part of the LGBTQIA+.
Inclusive parental leave policies in the workplace allow all new parents to spend time with their child, but what do these policies include?
We asked employees their thoughts on what inclusive parental leave policies are and discovered 47% of them said they believe an inclusive parental leave policy means having a gender-neutral approach. This means all parents are offered an equal amount of time off when having a child.
Over half (51%) of workers believe an inclusive parental leave policy means giving same-sex couples the same leave as different-sex couples, and 53% of employees believe it means giving adoptive couples the same leave as birth parents.
Even though nearly half of the workforce believe inclusive parental leave policies should offer a gender-neutral approach and allow same-sex couples the same leave, this has not been put into practice by the majority of businesses. Only one third of employees surveyed said their employer's parental leave policy is inclusive of LGBTQIA+ families and only 37% offer gender-neutral parental leave.
Some companies are making some moves to improve their inclusive policies for employees, with 15% of companies having introduced a specific inclusive policy for parental leave in the last 12 months. A further 12% of companies have introduced a specific inclusive policy for parental leave in the last 13-24 months, and 22% of them have always had a specific policy in place.
There’s still a long way to go to create inclusive workplaces, with 39% of employees saying their company should do more to make their parental leave policy more inclusive.
Some companies go above and beyond the required number of weeks off they’re required to give to their employees when having a child. With 27% of companies offering more paid parental leave than is legally required in the country it is registered.
We asked employees in 11 different countries how many weeks of full pay were staff at their organization given for the following policies:
We also asked employees the number of weeks that their company allows them to convert adoption or maternity leave into shared parental leave in the year immediately following their baby’s birth or placement.
We discovered that Canadian companies lead the way for inclusive parental leave policies. On average businesses in Canada pay their employees a full basic salary when on maternity, paternity, and adoption or surrogacy leave for the longest number of weeks.
Swedish companies allowed their employees to convert their adoption or maternity leave into shared parental leave for the highest number of weeks with an average of 17 weeks.
France has the shortest amount of paid time off in all five categories, offering an average of 15 weeks of full paid maternity leave, compared to Canada’s 24 weeks.
With 49% of employees favoring a new role based on inclusive parental leave policies, it’s important for businesses to consider their policies in order to attract and retain new talent. The inclusivity of a company is most important to 25-34 year olds, with almost two thirds (60%) of them saying they’d favor companies with inclusive parental leave policies.
When asked about a company’s paid leave policies for new parents, 47% of workers said they would decline a job offer if the company's policies did not meet their expectations. Paid leave policies for new parents are most important to 25-34 year olds, with 57% of them saying they would decline a job offer based on the new parents' paid leave policies.
Almost half of workers (49%) said a company’s paid leave policy for new parents would impact their decision to apply for a job, with 60% of those aged between both 16-24 and 25-34 saying they would consider not applying for a job based on the company’s paid leave policies for new parents.
With 15% of employees we spoke to saying they’re unaware how much paid time they’re allowed off if they became new parents, it’s important for businesses to keep their staff informed and be transparent about the policies they have in place.
Unsurprisingly, those working in HR are most likely to know how much paid leave their company allows new parents to take, with 70% of them aware of what they’re allowed. Those in sales, media and marketing are the least likely to know how much paid leave their company allows for new parents, with 23% of them saying they’re unaware.
Having inclusive parental leave policies in place doesn't just benefit the employee but the whole company. When talking to employers from the UK and the US, 70% of them said having inclusive leave policies in place for parents helps attract and retain diverse employees. A further 66% of employers said these policies help to attract and retain top-performing employees. Attracting and retaining diverse employees help businesses grow and develop whilst creating a positive workplace.
Over two-thirds of employers agreed that inclusive parental leave policies help close the gender wage gap and promote gender equality at work, allowing everyone to feel appreciated.
They also help employees live a balanced life, with 69% of employers saying inclusive parental leave policies improve the family-work balance, encourage all parents to play a caring role and improve the bond between parents and child. 67% of employers believe these policies improve company culture and motivate employees, continuing to create the best workplace possible.
|Rank||Benefit||% of employers|
|1||Helps attract and retain diverse employees||70%|
|2||Improves the family-work balance||69%|
|3||Encourages fathers to play a greater caring role||69%|
|4||Improves the bond between parents and child||69%|
|5||Promotes gender equality at work||67%|
|6||Helps close the gender wage gap||67%|
|7||Allows the main caregiver to go back to work sooner||67%|
|8||Helps improve company culture||67%|
|9||Helps motivate employees||67%|
|10||Helps attract and retain top-performing employees||66%|
Returning to work after having a child means parents then have to find appropriate care for their child whilst they’re away, which can be expensive and can directly affect employees' decisions to return to work.
Overall, 25% of employees said they struggle to afford childcare costs for their kids when they’re at work. We looked at 11 different countries to discover the most and least expensive places for childcare.
Comparing the cost of childcare in 11 countries around the world*:
We discovered Singapore has the most expensive childcare by over £100, with an average cost of £480.05 per child each month.
The USA has the second highest cost, with an average of £372.98 per child per month. This is closely followed by Australia with childcare costing an average of £331.73 per child every month.
India had the lowest monthly cost per child at just £49.31 a month, over £430 less than Singapore.
Businesses can improve their parental policies to make them more inclusive and create a more positive culture for all. One way businesses can do this is by introducing flexible scheduling policies.
#1. Offer flexible working.
The pandemic changed how we worked in a big way and the opportunities to work flexibly have increased drastically, which is a big help for new and soon-to-be parents. Just over a quarter (26%) of the employees we surveyed are able to work from home after having a child. A further 42% said their employers allowed them to work flexible hours to work around their children (for example, going on school runs and attending appointments). Some employers have introduced this benefit before the birth of a child, with 36% saying they allow their employees to attend antenatal appointments during paid working hours. Incorporating flexible scheduling allows employees to adapt their schedules to fit their family needs. Along with allowing staff to work different hours, flexible scheduling helps to promote a healthy work-life balance.
#2. Offer a transition period.
Giving parents a transitional period before and after parental leave is becoming increasingly common, and it’s a perk we offer to all new parents at Remote. This allows the parent to go part-time, 1-2 weeks before they fully sign off for leave and part-time for their first couple weeks back. Amanda Day, Director of People Enablement at Remote, explained why we incorporate this into our parental policy at Remote:
“Allowing parents to go part-time before and after parental leave helps them to readjust to the upcoming changes, and ease themselves into their new routine. This can help effectively prepare and allow employees to build confidence when returning to the workplace.”
#3. Provide parental leave to everyone, not just longtime employees.
Allowing all members of staff the same access to paid time off for parental leave, no matter how long they’ve worked at a company, creates an equal footing for all. This includes people that give birth or adopt just before joining the company. Amanda Day explains how this policy is incorporated at Remote:
“We honor our leave for those who have had a baby just before joining us. If a new employee’s child is born or adopted within 16 weeks of their start date, they will still be eligible for our parental leave policy, minus the number of weeks between birth/adoption and their start date. This is important to us as it sets the tone of our working relationship, demonstrating that our employee’s family life is important to us.”
#4. Offer assistance with childcare costs as a benefit.
Another way employers can make their parental policies more inclusive is by helping with childcare costs. With one quarter of employees surveyed saying they struggled to afford childcare costs, helping employees to find appropriate childcare when they’re working can be a great help. Some companies with offices even have childcare facilities on site, though for most businesses, that is not a practical solution. Consider offering childcare stipends or programs to find and sign up for local childcare services for employees who are parents.
#5. Giving equal time off for adoption leave.
You can create a more inclusive policy for those adopting by allowing them to have the same amount of leave and allowing them time off to attend adoption appointments. Only 32% of employees said their company allows time off for adoption appointments. By welcoming families of all types, not only do you create a more welcoming environment for your existing workforce, but you can also attract new employees with a more inclusive policy.
#6. Offer generous breastfeeding policies.
Being able to comfortably breastfeed is important for new parents. Ensure your parental policies are inclusive by seeing that your workplace has space sufficient for breastfeeding mothers. Only a third of employees we surveyed (33%) said their place of employment has sufficient space for breastfeeding in private. When asked, 31% of employees said their place of employment allows mothers to take paid breastfeeding breaks, and 26% said their place of employment allows mothers to take unpaid breastfeeding breaks.
Now that remote work has become more common, many employees are demanding increased flexibility from their employers. Parents, especially, appreciate businesses with flexible working arrangements so they can be there for their children as they grow. With the information in this report, businesses can get a greater understanding of how parental leave works in different countries, where gaps may exist, and how to create more effective and inclusive policies.
No matter where you hire employees, the data is clear: better parental leave policies are better for your business and for the people who work there.
Ready to offer better benefits to your distributed team and wondering how to get started? Remote can help with that, too. Contact our team today to discuss your benefits strategy and see how Remote’s global employment solutions can help you onboard, retain, and support the top global talent you need to thrive.
We surveyed 5,708 full-time employees across 11 markets who work for a single company and are entitled to the company's benefit.
We also surveyed 544 Employers (excluding sole traders) aged 18+ in the UK and US.
Currency exchanged to GBP and USD on December 20th, 2022.