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QBE North America Rolls Out Gender-Equal Paid Parental-Leave Policy for Employees

closeup of a dad holding a newborn baby

Insurance company QBE North America has enhanced its paid parental-leave program, offering at least 12 weeks to all parents and inclusive of adoption, birth, fostering, and surrogacy—and nearly double that number in some cases.

The firm’s new program, called Balanced Beginnings, provides 12 weeks to all parents on a gender-equal basis. In addition, the firm—with more than 2,700 North America employees—provides two weeks prepartum, as well as 6-8 weeks short-term disability, to parents giving birth. When combined with paid parental leave, birth parents can take up to 22 weeks total of paid time off, the insurer told SHRM Online.

The new program kicked off March 1.

Parental-leave benefits are available to all QBE North America employees from their first day of employment and can be taken flexibly within the first year of their child’s arrival.

“We recognize the role employers can play to help equalize gender roles, normalize taking time off to grow a family, and make the workplace a more family-friendly environment,” said Rachel Pollack, chief human resource officer at QBE North America.

The announcement comes as many other companies consider their parental-leave policies. While the United States is one of the only industrialized countries to not offer national paid parental leave, many employers have filled in the gaps. Liberty Mutual Insurance and Thomson Reuters are among the employers that have recently enhanced policies for new parents.

SHRM Online gathered up additional articles on paid parental-leave policies.

Family Leave Still Rare

​More private workers have access to paid family leave, but as a whole, the majority of workers still do not have access to any kind of leave policy.

Just 27% of all private industry workers have access to paid family leave, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Workers who can least afford to take unpaid time off are also the least likely to have access to paid leave: According to the BLS, just 14% of workers in the lowest 25% wage category get that benefit, compared with 48% of those in the top 10%.

(Associated Press)

Uptick in Employers’ Benefits Programs

Some strides have been made in recent years with employers looking at their own leave policies for new parents.

SHRM’s 2023 Employee Benefits Survey found that considerable improvements have been made in parental-leave and family-leave benefits programs over the past year. Paid maternity and paternity leave each saw 5-percentage-point jumps from 2022 to 2023 and are now offered by 40% and 32% of employers, respectively, SHRM’s report found.

Simultaneously, paid parental leave is now offered by roughly 4 in 10 employers (39%), a 6-point jump from 2022, according to SHRM’s 2023 data. Paid adoption leave also jumped by 6 percentage points, with about a third of employers (34%) now offering it, and paid foster child leave is now offered by 25% of employers, representing a 3-percentage-point increase.

“Prior to the pandemic, a lot of benefits had been about focusing on individuals,” SHRM researcher Cal Engstrom said. “But when COVID-19 hit, a lot of employers started to think about benefits that help not just their employees, but their loved ones as well.”

(SHRM Online)

More Fathers Taking Leave

Many dads may not have taken paid paternity leave in the past, even when it was offered to them, but that is changing. In California alone, men filed 44% of bonding claims in 2022, which was up from 31% a decade prior, according to the state’s Employment Development Department.

Across the country, more workplaces are accommodating dads to ensure they have a healthy work/life balance.

“Men taking leave to mind their children is still a relatively new concept,” said Ciara Harrington, chief people officer at Skillsoft, a New Hampshire-based training company with 2,500 employees. “A significant cultural shift like this requires new dads to step outside traditional societal norms, focus on the needs of their families and their children, and lead the charge by taking advantage of the parental-leave offering. Personally and professionally, I know many fathers who have taken this time. I look forward to seeing many more in the future as it becomes a more common practice.”

(SHRM Online)

Working Mothers Need Support

Working mothers are in dire need of support from their employer, said Cheri Wheeler, vice president and senior consultant at Kelly Benefits Strategies, a benefits consultant firm based in Sparks, Md.

While support including child care benefits, work/life balance, flexible schedules, remote work, and more is vital, support for parents should start with paid parental leave.

“Many moms don’t have any disability or a leave benefit after childbirth, so they’re going back to work in a couple of weeks,” she said. “And it’s tragic not to have that time. Companies can definitely look at their parental-leave policies. Women value that more than things like vision insurance or student loan reimbursement or any of that stuff. [Parental and family leave] is one of the most desired benefits that females want.”

(SHRM Online)


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