Anyone who has experienced it firsthand knows that welcoming a new child to your family doesn’t just take a few weeks of vacation time — and an increasing number of employers are coming to the same conclusion.
Of the 38 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is the only nation not to have a form of paid parental leave for its citizens. Estonia breaks the record at 86 weeks for new parents, while Ireland has as little as seven weeks — but a policy is still in place. Notably, UNICEF advocates for at least 24 weeks of paid leave, or six months. But Haleon, the largest global healthcare consumer goods company in the world, is taking it a step further.
Formerly GSK Consumer Health, earlier this year Haleon parted with GSK, a British multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. On its first day as an independent company, Haleon implemented a 26-week paid parental leave policy for all parents, regardless of gender or sexuality, and regardless of whether they are welcoming a child through birth, surrogacy or adoption.
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“We’re a healthcare company, and as a result, we’re deeply concerned about people’s health and wellbeing,” says Matthew Culhane, vice president of HR in North America at Haleon. “We’re looking for opportunities to support our employees and strengthen our culture and purpose — to deliver everyday health with humanity.”
Culhane underlines that Haleon’s parental policy is built on inclusivity and an understanding that growing one’s family is one of the most important moments in people’s lives. Fortunately, leadership at every level of the organization agreed, minimizing the number of roadblocks this policy encountered, explains Culhane.
“This feels like a disproportionately important point in people’s lives,” he says. “As we assessed the impact it would have on our employees, it was an easier [decision] than people may think.”
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While a portion of Haleon employees work in countries with a parental leave policy, Haleon’s offering serves as a minimum amount of paid leave. For Culhane, this means every employee can invest in their health and the health of their family rather than rushing back to work. In fact, UC Davis Medical Center notes that babies who are held and comforted when they need it in the first six months of life tend to be more secure and confident as toddlers and children.
“Even in countries where there historically has been parental leave policies, they understand the magnitude of this [offering] globally and what it means in other countries like the U.S,” says Culhane. “We always hope our employees place significant importance on their families.”
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Culhane hopes employees can now make a more enthusiastic, productive return to work, confident that their status as working parents is recognized and even celebrated. And Culhane does not want this Haleon benefit to remain an exception in the healthcare space.
Culhane’s advice to other healthcare companies is simple: be true to their company’s mission.
“When you start with your purpose and go from there, the decision becomes easier,” he says. “Having a long-term parental leave benefit is just the right thing to do. This isn’t an area where I want to continue to be the only company to do this. I hope our competitors follow suit.”
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