A new policy is being introduced globally by Volvo Cars that provides paid parental leave to employees regardless of gender. Called the ‘Family Bond’ policy, any employee with at least one year of service with the carmaker can take 24 weeks of paid leave at 80% of their base pay.

The policy goes into effect April 1, 2021, and it certainly isn’t an off-color joke. It applies as the default rather than an opt-in program for new, legally registered parents of all walks of life including opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples, adoptive parents, surrogates and permanent foster caregivers, and non-birth parents in same-sex couples.

Volvo’s policy makes parental leave accessible for the first time to many groups and, in some cases, for the first time in certain countries. For example, many countries don’t permit parental leave for fathers, or the approved leave must be split between the parents. ‘Family Bond’ allows for a Volvo employee to take paid leave during the most intense period parents may experience.

Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo Cars, said, “We want to create a culture that supports equal parenting for all genders. 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 program, we are demonstrating and living our values, which in turn will strengthen our brand.”

Strategic language in announcement

Volvo has carefully chosen the words used to portray the program and to integrate it. The intent is to encourage employees to make use of paid leave, help make parental leave for both parents a normal occurrence, and ease concerns regarding the effect on career trajectory and cultural expectations or stigmatization.

To that end, language that is open to interpretation like “up to 24 weeks” has been eliminated. And rather than making employees choose to engage in the program, it’s been set as the default. In fact, Volvo commissioned a Language Literature Review to ensure the most effective rollout happens.

In the US, however, parents do have a selection to make: 24 weeks of leave at 80% of base pay, or 19 weeks of parental leave at full pay. Leave must be taken within 36 months of birth.

An inclusive policy

It appears Volvo has done an impeccable job of being inclusive with the parental leave policy, aiming to break down cultural and gender barriers within the company – and being an example to other carmakers in the process.

Hanna Fager is head of corporate functions for Volvo, she said, “This is more than a new parental leave policy for our employees – it is the embodiment of our company culture and values. 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 has committed to sharing the participation results in the future, allowing other companies to learn from this pilot program.

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