A global parental leave policy

Mum and Baby


Clare Lee is the Head of Human Resources at Johnson & Johnson for the UK, Ireland & Nordics. She spoke to Workingmums.co.uk about the company’s global parental leave policy which enables employees to take a minimum of eight weeks paid parental leave for birth or adoption.

When was the global parental leave policy brought in?

Clare Lee: Johnson & Johnson began rolling out a new global approach to leave for parents on a country by country basis in the summer of 2017 and it took until the first quarter of 2018 to complete globally. This is because we had to tailor this new approach to suit the laws and cultures of each country. It’s also worth noting that we have incorporated this new approach into our maternity, adoption and paternity leave policies in the process. Before the launch of the new policy, employees had to work for a set amount of time to receive the full maternity package and benefits. Having now removed this weight has also played a role in the huge success of the policy.

Why was it brought in?

CL: There were two main reasons as to why this new approach was brought in. Firstly, we wanted to stand out as business in terms of the healthcare and support we provide for working families (both current and future employees) and we wanted to ensure that this support network was available around the world. Our recently launched Health for Humanity Report, goes into a lot more detail on the many benefits and opportunities we offer our employees. Traditionally, these types of policies have been local. This was one of the first policies that was launched and mandated globally. It’s just a bonus that we are also ahead of our competitors in this space too.

Secondly, we realised that we needed to recognise that the needs of the modern family are not ‘one size fits all’. We feel very strongly about this. To attract and retain the wonderfully diverse workforce that we pride ourselves on, we must ensure that everybody’s needs are equally met, including working mothers or fathers, adoptive parents and same-sex couples. The importance of family is in our DNA. Since our founding our Credo sits at the heart of everything we do. We are responsible to our employees and it’s important that this is reflected within our policies.

A lot of people associate Johnson & Johnson with mother and baby simply because we offer a lot of well-known consumer baby products like our lotion and shampoos. We previously supported mothers, and as the family dynamic has changed, it’s time to support all parents and allow them to bond with their children while still being able to work or come back to work after birth.

Claire Lee

Claire Lee

How does it work on a global scale, for example, are there any challenges with implementing it in different parts of the world?

CL: When rolling the scheme out globally, we had to be aware of the legislative and cultural differences in the various countries that we operate in. Johnson & Johnson already had some policies in place and different countries like the Nordics, who are very advanced or the UK, for example, which have the Working Parents Directive, legislation that already speaks in this space.

Although the policy varies slightly from country to country, we had to ensure that the core message and offering was consistent and clear around the world. Our UK operation already had a strong parental leave policy so the main challenge lay in adapting the global philosophy to fit each market.

What has the uptake been and have there been any changes/tweaks since it was first mooted?

CL: Fortunately, we haven’t needed to make any changes since rolling out the policy. We did extensive consultation, planning and research before the launch which included multiple discussions with line leaders and employees from across our various businesses to try to get everything right from the offset. As expected, the uptake has been high among both working mothers and working fathers, which we’re thrilled by.

In the UK, what is the uptake by dads compared to the uptake by mums?

CL: Thus far, 50 employees have taken advantage of the new scheme since we introduced the policy last summer and I think this is a great advert for the policy and our support as a company. We’ve had particularly amazing feedback from dads who’ve used the scheme – one man highlighted a discussion in a parenting group that he’s involved in outside of work. The group agreed that new mothers typically have a more consistent maternity leave experience, whereas it can be a mixed bag for men. He brought up Johnson & Johnson’s paternity leave policy and it really stood out in the group in terms of its duration and flexibility. 

How have you communicated it? 

CL: We’ve had incredible top-level support for the scheme; Peter Fasolo, our Global Head of HR, and Alex Gorsky, CEO and Chairman, have both been instrumental in communicating the initiative to the J&J employees. It has then been very much business-led. And I think that because it’s been so heavily endorsed from the top, it has led to the popular uptake of the policy.

We organised town hall events where employees could learn more about the initiative and produced FAQ documents for reference. We ensured that the entire leadership team was briefed on the importance of this new approach to support the needs of working parents, as well as our cross-sector leadership team so everyone was comfortable talking about and explaining the policy.

Is it supported by coaching for parents and flexible working?

CL: Becoming a working mother or working father can be overwhelming and we aim to ensure that parents receive the support that they need. We realised that not all parents will want to take eight weeks off at once so we offer the option of taking it in two-week chunks instead within a year of the birth of the child. Our maternal and paternal leave policies also both have guidance for support and we offer full transitional support when returning from leave. We’ve also given our employees access to an organisation called ‘My Family Care’ which provides advice and support to new parents.

Family is incredibly important to Johnson & Johnson. As I said before it’s in our DNA; whether through the products that we make to support families or in our Credo and our responsibility to support our employees as they start or grow their own.  

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