To retain top talent, companies have to reconsider how they manage new mothers returning to work.
Having a baby is a huge milestone in any couple’s life. But how does one navigate a newborn while also continuing to pursue career ambitions? For mothers, it is an especially tall order and a tough adjustment.
But studies show that companies that invest in stronger maternity benefits are able to retain the top talent and save money at the same time.
In East Africa, the laws on maternity leave vary by country. For example, in Uganda, female employees are entitled to 60 working days maternity leave; while in Tanzania, a woman has to have been an employee for at least six months to qualify for the 84 days of paid maternity leave.
Last year in Kenya, there was a legislative proposal to double the maternity leave from three to six months with the goal of boosting the health of mothers and babies, as per World Health Organization recommendations. But nothing became of the proposal.
For many new mothers, however, the difficulty does not come from actual maternity leave, but how companies adjust to their needs once they treturn to work - including the need to breastfeed and provide basic childcare.
a recent Kenyan Come Home placement candidate and new mother, the difficulty does not come from actual maternity leave, but how companies adjust to new mothers once they return to work.
One company that has become a pillar example for its maternity benefits is Safaricom, which is consistently considered one of the top places to work in East Africa.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) recently lauded Safaricom's childcare program for working mothers as a best practice that promotes career grwoth. The business impact has included improved punctuality as well as reduced absenteeism and stress.
Vodafone, which owns 40 percent of Safaricom, reviewed its maternity leave policy in 2015 after commissioning an audit that found the cost of recruiting and training new employees to replace women exiting the workforce after childbirth costs up to $47 billion each year. In comparison, the cost of offering working mothers 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave would cost an additional $28 billion.
As a result, Safaricom's maternity leave policy now includes a 16-week fully paid leave and a 30-hour week on full pay for the first six months. They also offer on site creches and a strong 'bring your child to work' policy, overall creating one of the best maternity and post-maternity leave portfolios in East Africa.
Another African company that is doing this right is Pick n Pay, which is one of the few South African companies that offers 11 months of maternity leave instead of the usual four months required by law.
Pick n Pay Head of Corporate and Group Strategy, David North, says that good maternity benefits help to build trust and loyalty between employer and employee.
“Pick n Pay has always sought to provide good employee benefits," he says. 'A majority of our employees are women, and we know that maternity benefits are important to them.”