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VOLVO CARS LAUNCHES NEW 24 WEEKS PAID PARENTAL LEAVE POLICY

Date: 23 Apr 2021 Author Type: Press Release
Author: Volvo South Africa
Source: Volvo South Africa
Volvo Cars is opting in all employees in South Africa into a new all-gender, paid parental leave policy as of April 1, 2021. The ‘Family Bond’ policy will give all employees with at least one year’s service a total of 24 weeks of leave at 80% of their base pay by default, and will apply to Volvo Cars’ 40,000+ employees in all plants and offices around the globe. The policy applies to either parent and the leave can be taken anytime within the three first years of parenthood.

The ‘Family Bond’ policy includes all legally registered parents, including adoptive, foster care and surrogate parents, as well as non-birth parents of same sex couples. Some countries do not offer any paid leave to new parents, or exclude certain groups of parents – the latter is particularly true for fathers.

According toGreg Maruszewski, Managing Director at Volvo Car South Africa, the company wanted to create a culture that supports equal parenting for all genders. “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. We have always been a family-oriented and human-centric company. Through the Family Bond programme, we are demonstrating and living our values, which in turn will strengthen our brand,” he explains.

The Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region was the first in Volvo globally to introduce this leave scheme. “Hence, we are proud to say that the EMEA region (which includes South Africa) is leading the Volvo world in this regard,” he points out.

Maruszewski says the company is also proud to be offering its employees far more than is required by South African law. “According to South Africa's latest parental leave laws – which were signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa and took effect from 1 January 2020 – all parents (including fathers, adopting parents, and surrogates) are entitled to 10 days of unpaid parental leave when their children are born. Thanks to our Family Bond programme, parents employed at Volvo Car South Africa won’t only get considerably more time off work – but they will also receive compensation,” he notes.

The fact that employees will receive 80% of their base pay will be especially significant to single parents in South Africa – of which there are many. According to research conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council and the South African Race Relations Institute, 60% of SA children have absent fathers, and more than 40% of South African mothers are single parents.1. “We sympathise with these parents and we would like to provide them with some support during this very significant part of their child’s life,” says Maruszewski.

He believes that the extra days of leave (24 weeks versus 10 days) will also send a clear message that Volvo Car South Africa cares for its employees and their families. “The leave is not mandatory, but we do want to create a culture where our people feel safe and supported to take the time should they so choose. We’re encouraging parents to take this time to bond more with their families. We truly believe this is important and we’ll share our experience over time so that other companies can learn from our progress,” Maruszewski reveals.

Volvo Cars’ 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 scheme launched in the EMEA region in 2019, in which 46% of all applicants were fathers.

“This is more than a new parental leave policy for our employees – it is the embodiment of our company culture and values,” said Hanna Fager, head of corporate functions and HR. “We want to lead change in this industry and set a new global people standard. By opting all our employees into paid parental leave we narrow the gender gap and get a more diverse workforce, boosting performance and strengthening our business.”

When studying the outcome of its parental leave pilot, the company found that employees appreciated the policy for being gender neutral, inclusive and adaptable to personal needs. The studies also resulted in important insights on how to encourage even more employees to take parental leave and make parental leave for both parents the new ‘norm’. Some of the obstacles that limit the uptake of parental leave include parents’ concerns around the potential impact it 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.

To encourage uptake, Volvo Cars has focused on communicating about its parental leave policy more effectively. By presenting the 24 weeks parental leave as a pre-selected option, the company aims to create a ‘default effect’ – essentially, people are highly likely to stick with pre-selected options. Ambiguous language, such as ‘up to 24 weeks’, is avoided as we tend to predict negative outcomes when there is uncertainty. By using tactics like these, Volvo Cars aim to remove confusion and cultural barriers, and provide parents with certainty. To further show its commitment to reducing the gender gap, Volvo Cars will share its participation results over time so that other companies can learn from its progress.
 
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