Schneider Electric launches global family leave policy

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Energy management and automation company Schneider Electric announced it is launching a new paid global family leave policy that will be rolled out across its 100 worldwide operating locations by January 2019.

The new policy enables both birth and adoptive parents to take paid leave in order to care for their new child. Primary caregivers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, and secondary caregivers can take up to two weeks of paid time off. Prior to the new policy, parental leave was taken under the company’s short-term disability policy, and there was no leave for secondary caregivers.

Meanwhile, employees will be able to take one week of paid leave to care for an immediate family member who needs eldercare or care due to a serious health condition. Schneider Electric also will allow employees to take one week of bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member.

The policy will be implemented for Schneider’s 35,000 U.S. employees — and in other locations, including China and Mexico — by January 2018, the company says. All of the firm’s operating locations — the company has 144,000 total employees — will have the policy in place by January 2019.

In formulating the policy, Schneider Electric says it has actively chosen to define “leave” and “family” in an inclusive way, recognizing that the definitions of family, life and work are changing every day, explains Olivier Blum, chief human resources officer and executive vice president at Schneider Electric. That’s why the policy includes leave plans for key life stages: welcoming a new baby, taking care of sick or elderly family members, and mourning the loss of a family member.

The new policy “demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion” aimed to generate greater employee engagement, performance and innovation, he says.

Additionally, says Roxana Svensson, the company’s director of diversity and inclusion, the policy aims to promote “a favorable work environment where our employees can manage their work and life.”

“[It] will reinforce our diversity and inclusion ambition of providing equal opportunities to everyone, ensuring more paid time off when it’s needed the most and allowing flexibility that’s supportive of a healthy work-life balance,” she says. “The well-being of our staff is our highest priority.”

The company says the new policy will take into consideration local legal requirements, with the paid leave arrangements forming a global minimum standard across the firm. If a particular country’s legal requirement or current practice is more than the global minimum standard set out in the new policy, then the higher standard will be adhered to.

Though U.S. employers traditionally haven’t been very generous with paid leave — a Pew Research Center report ranks the United States last out of 38 countries in government-supported time off for new parents — an increasing number of big-name firms have expanded the benefit.

In addition to Schneider Electric, John Hopkins University, TD Bank, BASF, American Express, Ikea, Bank of America and Indiana University have boosted family-leave policies in the last year, with many citing the growing importance of work-life balance for employees.

Only 12% of U.S. private-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer, according to Labor Department data.

According to research from the Society of Human Resource Management, leave is one of the top-rated employee benefits by workers. Because of that fact, more than one-third of HR professionals told SHRM they altered their leave benefits in the past 12 months to aid in retention and attraction efforts.

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