Striving for a work–life balance is hard, whatever your situation. Add parenthood to the mix, and attaining that balance can get even more challenging.
“Pregnancy was a time of great joy for me but also feeling a bit of anxiety,” acknowledges Unilever’s Chief HR Officer Leena Nair. “I wondered if I’d be able to balance everything that my work and career needed with the joy of being a parent.”
At Unilever, we already have our global maternity and paternity support platform (MAPS) which helps guide parents and line managers to ensure there’s a positive transition into parenthood.
Improving our support for expectant mums and women returners
“Now we’re taking our support to the next level with the launch of a Global Maternal Wellbeing Standard, to support women in the transition to being a working mum,” says Unilever’s Executive Vice President of Global Marketing and Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Aline Santos.
Our improved maternity standard aims to help returning mothers as they “physically recover their health; to provide access to facilities that allow them to nurse their baby and to also have the flexibility they need to ease back into the workplace after their maternity leave”.
Here are the four key elements that make up our Global Maternal Wellbeing Standard.
1. Paid maternity leave of 16 weeks for every mum
All employees will have a minimum of 16 weeks’ paid maternity leave, or the local statutory minimum – whichever is more favourable. This is a big and bold step for Unilever. Maternity leave was under 16 weeks in 54% of the countries in which we operate before the launch of the standard in March 2017. Now we have 91% alignment.
2. Flexible ways of working to suit a family’s needs
All mothers returning to work will have access to a variety of flexible working options. This could be the option to go part time, work in an agile way which allows a job share, based on the requirements of their role by the end of 2017 at the latest.
3. Facilities and regular breaks for nursing mothers
Every site with more than 50 women will have lactation facilities available by the end of 2018. Lactating mothers must have two 30-minute breaks.
4. Crèche services to take the stress out of childcare
By the end of 2018, sites with more than 50 female employees will facilitate access to crèche services tailored to local needs.
As Aline Santos acknowledges: “We have come a long way in our support for working mothers. Our new Global Standard is further evidence of this. Together, we will continue to create a supportive and nurturing environment for everyone at Unilever.”
Quality time at work and home
Abigail Collins is an HR learning manager. She explains how support from colleagues and agile working helped her enjoy a smooth return to work.
"I’m an HR learning manager, focused on learning and development for people in HR across Unilever. I returned to work in April 2017, following a year on maternity leave with my first child, Annabel.
My boss was great at striking the right balance during my year off on maternity leave, keeping me in the loop and inviting me to things but with zero pressure. I felt like I knew what was going on, so the transition wasn’t as tough, but I was also fully ‘present’ as a full-time mum.
Now I’m back at work, life is busy. Being able to work from home sometimes is really helpful. My boss trusts me to get the job done, when and how it works for me.
When I turn off my laptop I can be with my daughter five minutes later. My childminder is very close to my home, so the time I save by not commuting is quality time that I can spend with her."