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American Shipper

Commentary: Maersk makes stand on maternity

Maersk Group recently announced it was upping the amount of paid maternity leave it will offer female employees, a positive move by the global liner carrier.

   The Maersk Group announced last week it was upping the amount of paid maternity leave it will offer female employees.
   “While the practical application of the new program is still being finalized, once implemented in the U.S., more than 1,200 women employed will be eligible for 18 weeks of paid leave compared to their current paid leave which was typically six weeks,” the company said.
   The broadening of maternity leave benefits is part of a global initiative to help the company, operator of the world’s biggest container-shipping line, to better attract and retain female employees. The company employed around 23,000 women globally as of February 2015. Over the last three years, an average of about 500 women have gone on maternity leave each year across the group.
   “In research conducted for us by KPMG, evidence suggests that maternity leave policies have an influence on the labor market participation by contributing to higher employment rates of women,” said Lucien Alziari, head of Maersk Group’s human resources.
   The new policy will improve terms for women working for Maersk in at least 50 of the 130 countries in which the group operates, compared to the statutory minimum, the company said.
   In a U.S. context, the new policy would place Maersk in an elite place among companies offering paid maternity leave. There is no current federal policy mandating employers to give their female employees paid maternity leave, though four states have such laws. Those state laws guarantee women anywhere from four to six weeks paid leave at anywhere from 55 to 66 percent of their pay.
   New mothers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but again, that’s unpaid leave.
   Maersk’s new policy would align with those offered by technology companies, who are known to have among the best maternity leave benefits of any industry.
   Google, for instance, increased paid maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks in 2007 and saw the rate at which new mothers leaving the company drop by 50 percent. Apple offers four weeks off before birth and 16 weeks after, and fathers and adoptive parents can take six weeks off.
   The United States is literally the only industrialized nation in the world without a guarantee of time off with pay for mothers to care for newborns. That, of course, doesn’t preclude companies from exceeding, or far exceeding, what the laws mandate.
   Maersk has taken a commendable step here, one that other transportation and logistics companies would be wise to follow. There’s been little, if any, concrete proof that providing such benefits hurts businesses in any meaningful way.
   Indeed, such a policy can serve as a powerful recruiting tool and morale booster. New mothers often leave the workforce when they have a baby—having a plan to pay them while off caring for newborns and then to reintegrate them back to their prior role helps a company retain proprietary intelligence and avoid employee churn.
   Like many industries, transportation and logistics has suffered from a male-dominated perspective that is just starting to change. Women like Lea Bogatch-Genossar at ZIM and Inna Kuzetsnova at INTTRA are just two examples of women redefining our industry. With policies such as these at Maersk, there’s a much better chance that more of the best and brightest women will be attracted to trade and transportation.

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