The patchwork of state and local leave laws in the U.S. often frustrates employers. In absence of one statute outlining countrywide requirements for paid time off, employers must consider whether their programs play nice with laws in California and New York, or that new one in Oregon.
Companies with operations outside the U.S. face a leave law landscape that’s even more complex. Thomson Reuters, for instance, operates in 74 countries. The company recently developed a global minimum standard for parental leave. The benefit ensures that, as of April 2023, Thomson Reuters’ employees will receive at least 16 weeks of paid parental leave, no matter where they work.
To develop the new standard, Thomson Reuters worked through the existing parental leave policies in the countries where it operates, an “enormously complex” challenge, according to Chief People Officer Mary Alice Vuicic. In a recent conversation with HR Dive, Vuicic described how her company built the new standard and her advice to organizations working toward a similar feat.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
HR DIVE: Your global minimum standard offers 16 weeks of paid leave to all parents regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status or family role. How did you land on this amount of time? What did employees have access to before this was implemented?
MARY ALICE VUICIC: We conducted a peer benchmarking study, held regular sessions with key stakeholders across the business and geographies, and closely examined regional data to assess the potential impact of a global minimum standard.
Previously, our parental leave policies varied by country according to local requirements, which is typical for global organizations. For example, in the U.S., Thomson Reuters’ previous parental leave policy for nonbirthing parents was already competitive at 12 weeks.
However, we listened to our teammates, and we wanted to continue to improve our benefit offering — we felt like 16 weeks accomplished this. Our new 16-week global minimum standard demonstrates our commitment to creating a positive work-life balance for colleagues, especially those navigating such a new and exciting time in their lives.
As a global company, how did Thomson Reuters navigate the various regulatory requirements in building this standard? Why did the company implement a global minimum standard?
As we began introducing Thomson Reuters’ new Flex My Way benefits in 2022, we quickly realized how complex navigating the global regulatory requirements would be for parental leave. Many countries have no requirements; some define parental leave differently, so it became obvious that we needed to maintain in-country policies that meet the global minimum standard.
Implementing a new global minimum standard gives our teammates the flexibility needed to welcome a new child to the family. Where a country’s statutory maternity, paternity or adoption leave regulations are more generous than the 16-week standard we set, this will remain unchanged.
How did you get buy-in from local HR teams?
We found it critical to work alongside local HR teams to receive their input in order to understand the cultural and regulatory differences between countries. The support of the entire executive team was also vital to help build a common language and supportive culture where parents can take the time they need following a birth or adoption.
What were some of the challenges involved in collecting the information you needed to create and implement the new standard?
We last updated our U.S. parental leave policy a few years ago, but this change was much broader. Working through the existing policies and administration in different countries was enormously complex, given the different jurisdictional requirements and practices. Throughout the process, we had to work with both our external partners and internal systems to ensure alignment.
Communication is a huge component of all our standards and policies; the more people understand the benefits, the more value they get from them. Educating managers is also important; they need to understand our standards and how to support and administer them properly. Overall, we must simplify the new processes for managers to oversee and manage their work within these programs.
Building a global minimum standard like this is a huge undertaking. What makes it worth the effort?
Welcoming a child to the family is life-changing, and our global minimum standard ensures parents have more time to care for their new child. Giving parents time to adjust and bond with their child will have a positive effect on the physical, financial and emotional well-being of their whole family.
We are proud of the impact this global minimum standard will have on our teammates. It’s another step in our effort to foster a positive and supportive work environment that helps teammates achieve a better work-life balance.
What’s your advice to organizations — large or small — that are considering implementing a broad leave standard like yours?
For organizations considering a similar parental global minimum standard, we recommend partnering with local HR teams to fully understand the cultural and regulatory differences between countries to determine what makes sense for your business, and speaking to colleagues to find out what they want and need. We also recommend working with executive leadership to get their support in building successful policies that foster a positive and healthy work environment.