Paid Leave: It's Not the Company, It's the Country

by Julie Graber | on 26 Feb 2016

The company shall remain nameless. Suffice it to say that is was a US-headquartered organization that operates globally. The headline indicated that said company was going to offer 26 weeks of maternity leave for women employees, and its competitors were expected to follow suit.

Sounded like progress to me. Yay!

Then I noticed that the article was from a media outlet in India.

I went looking for more coverage of the announcement — something that would indicate that the policy change would impact women working for the company globally.

Couldn’t find a thing.

I went back to the article to make sure I had read it correctly and noted that India had recently required private companies to extend their paid maternity leave benefits from 12 to 26 weeks. The companies mentioned in the article were making these changes in advancement of the law’s implementation. Only women working in India would receive this extended benefit.

I’m not sure why it hadn’t dawned on me before — I suppose I thought benefit policies were determined by the country in which the company was headquartered — not the country in which the employee is based. And that the benefits offered would be the same in all countries.

Wrong. When you work for a global company, the country where you are based is more important than the company for whom you work.

So women in India, you win the lottery. US women — still sucks to be you on this particular topic.

How do companies look their US women in the face and justify that difference?

It’s not that the company in question is any different from the rest. They offer US women up to 8 weeks of paid leave in addition to whatever time is available through short-term disability as maternity benefit. Pretty generous by US standards. But it pales in comparison to other countries.

Here’s what I don’t know — whether or not there are companies operating globally that offer the most expansive leave benefits to everyone in the company regardless of location. Would love to hear if you know of any.

Link to interactive map above