Nestlé Kenya will by the end of the year introduce a paternity leave of up to six months for male employees who are sole caregivers of their families in a policy change meant to give fathers equal treatment to women.
The change is in tandem with the parent company’s new global policy requiring that all “primary caregivers” should be eligible for fully paid leave days of up to 14 weeks, which can be extended to six months on a portion of the workers’ salaries.
The directive by Swiss-based Nestlé means that all its male employees who usually have two weeks paternity leave will have a longer break in the event that they are the primary guardian of a new born, or an adopted child.
The policy could see its male employees also work for six hours a day for six months on full remuneration, benefits currently being enjoyed only by women.
“There are several instances where a man becomes the sole caregiver in a family; this new policy will see such employees become eligible for provisions on leave days as well as pay,” said Brinda Chiniah, the corporate communications manager for Nestlé Kenya.
These scenarios include but are not limited to the extended hospitalisation of the mother, adoption of a child or in the tragic event that the mother dies during or after child birth.
“We are currently working on extending the benefits to primary caregivers as stipulated in the new policy. We hope this will be in place by the end of the year.”
The firm, whose brands include Nescafé, Maggi, Milo, Nido, KitKat and Nesquik, says the extended maternity leave days will also be available for all its female employees who opt for it. Nestlé Kenya has 185 employees.
The new policy has also made a half-day postnatal working schedule mandatory across its markets, adding that all employees should return to their or equivalent jobs after maternity.
“Nestlé markets that are currently below the minimum standards in this policy should establish a roadmap, with a timeline, to meet them by 2018,” Nestlé said in a recent notice to its subsidiaries.
Ms Chiniah told the Business Daily that Nestle Kenya has already implemented most of the global policy directives but expects to have fully complied by the end of the year.
Nestlé’s actions are in tandem with a growing push by multinational companies (some with Kenyan subsidiaries) to improve the welfare of parents among their workforce.
In March global telecom giant Vodafone, Safaricom’s parent company, introduced an enhanced maternity package across 30 countries, potentially benefiting over 1,000 women.
Safaricom began implementing it on April 1, increasing the fully-paid maternity leave from three to four months.
Vodafone’s programme also introduced a provision for employees returning from leave to work half-day for six months on their full pay.
“Too many talented women leave working life because they face a difficult choice between either caring for a newborn baby or maintaining their careers,” said Vittorio Colao, Vodafone’s group chief executive.
A survey by KPMG found that recruiting and training new employees to replace those who leave after giving birth costs multinationals approximately $47 billion (Sh4.7 trillion) every year.
The report also noted that offering women 16 weeks of fully paid leave, as opposed to the minimum legal limit, would cost the firms an extra $28 billion (Sh2.8 trillion) every year.