While the issue of paid maternity and paternity leave slowly wends its way through our government, some companies are (thankfully) taking matters into their own hands. Earlier this year, telecom giant Vodafone revised its policy to allow new moms a minimum of 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, while last month Richard Branson announced that U.S. employees of Virgin Management may soon get one full year of paid time off to be with their babies. Rachel Zoe even created a nursery in her West Hollywood office so her employees could be near their children during the work day.
And now Nestlé is getting in on the action. The Swiss-based food and beverage corporation recently unveiled its new international maternity leave policy, and it's pretty generous: 14 weeks paid leave—and an opportunity to extend that by up to six months (unpaid), if you want—and the option of a flexible work schedule once you return. A major reason for the generous arrangement? To support breastfeeding mothers, say Nestlé brass—which is ironic considering the company is a major manufacturer of infant formula.
In an interview with Fortune, Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke explained that the corporation is all about giving babies and moms a good start in life and supports breastfeeding for the first six months of life. "We as a company should allow mothers that are our employees to live up to that," he says.
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But lest you think this is a ploy to corner the mom market, Bulcke insists the new maternity leave policy is simply a reflection of the company's beliefs. It's a way that "mothers can secure a healthy start for their babies, because we as a company believe in that," he explains. "It costs money and reduces productivity [but] I can tell you of the motivation that it creates."
Of course, paid time off is crucial whether you're bottle-feeding or breastfeeding. Those early weeks and months are a special time for a new family, and the last thing moms and dads should have to worry about is their job. Hopefully more companies—and our government—will come around and see that.
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.
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