You'd expect the Swedes to be ahead of us in most social-democratic spheres, and Volvo has rather just proved the point by becoming one of the first companies in the world to offer its employees - Volvo says "all-gender" so we presume that to mean non-cis genders - 24 weeks of paid parental leave.
40,000+ global employees
All 40,000-odd of Volvo's global employees will get the new benefit, starting from April 1st.
Volvo's calling it the 'Family Bond' and it applies to either parent and can be taken at any time within the first three years after a baby's birth.
"We want to create a culture that supports equal parenting for all genders," said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo's chief executive. "When parents are supported to balance the demands of work and family, it helps to close the gender gap and allows everyone to excel in their careers. We have always been a family-oriented and human-centric company. Through the Family Bond programme, we are demonstrating and living our values, which in turn will strengthen our brand."
Volvo points out that its new policy is actually better than that offered by some governments, many of which do not offer legislated paid parental leave to fathers, for example. Volvo's Family Bond will be offered to all legally registered parents, including adoptive, foster care and surrogate parents, as well as non-birth parents in same-sex couples.
Inspired by Swedish legislation
The Swedish carmaker says that the policy was "inspired by national legislation in its home market of Sweden, famous around the globe for its generous parental leave arrangements, which have delivered tangible benefits for parents and children alike in recent decades." Volvo ran the policy as a pilot programme in the European, African, and Middle Eastern (EMEA) area in 2019, and some 46 per cent of all those who took up the offer were fathers.
"This is more than a new parental leave policy for our employees - it is the embodiment of our company culture and values," said Hanna Fager, head of corporate functions. "We want to lead change in this industry and set a new global people standard. By opting all our employees into paid parental leave we narrow the gender gap and get a more diverse workforce, boosting performance and strengthening our business."
Volvo said that, according to a study of the original pilot scheme, employees especially appreciated that it was gender-neutral, and that it could be adapted to personal needs. The studies also resulted in important insights on how to encourage even more employees to take parental leave and make parental leave for both parents the new 'norm'.
"Some of the obstacles that limit the uptake of parental leave include parents' concerns around the potential impact it might have on their team, fear around long-term career opportunities, and a cultural mindset about what is expected of fathers in the workplace and at home," said Volvo in a statement. "To encourage uptake, Volvo Cars has focused on communicating about its parental leave policy more effectively. By presenting the 24 weeks parental leave as a pre-selected option, the company aims to create a 'default effect' - essentially, people are highly likely to stick with pre-selected options. Ambiguous language, such as 'up to 24 weeks', is avoided as we tend to predict negative outcomes when there is uncertainty."