QBE North America launches 12 weeks’ paid parental leave, available to workers from their first day on the job

QBE North America launched an enhanced paid parental leave program Wednesday that offers a minimum of 12 weeks to employees on a gender-equal basis, which includes adoption, birth, fostering and surrogacy, according to an announcement from the company.

The 12 weeks is available to both birth and nonbirth parents, and the program also provides up to 22 weeks of paid leave, depending on the circumstances around family growth.

“As a working parent, I have experienced the complexities that come with managing a growing family and career — it can be a tough balancing act,” Julie Wood, CEO at QBE North America, said in the announcement. “I think it’s key that our employees feel confident we’ll support not just their professional development, but their family goals as well, and this enhanced benefit is another step in our prioritization of our people’s needs.”

The parental leave benefits are available to all QBE North America employees from their first day of employment, according to the announcement, and can be taken flexibly in the first year of their child’s arrival. 

The company also offers adoption and surrogacy financial assistance, coverage for infertility treatments, backup child care and elder care resources (such as two weeks of paid caregiver leave annually), flexible work schedules and a well-being rebate program with reimbursement for gym memberships, online fitness programs and meal service kits.

Although many employers say they plan to boost paid leave offerings in the coming years, some parents still feel hesitant about taking their full leave, especially younger employees and LGBTQ+ workers, according to a Remote survey. Employees cited concerns such as employer pressure, perceived stigma and expectations to return to work before the end of their allotted leave time.

Multinational companies may need to consider even broader standards and employee concerns. Thomson Reuters, for instance, operates in 74 countries and developed a global minimum standard for parental leave that provides at least 16 weeks, no matter where employees work. The standard applies to all parents regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status or family role, the company’s chief people officer previously told HR Dive.

Parity in paid parental leave remains low, with only 9% of the largest companies offering 12 weeks of paid parental leave to both primary and secondary caregiving workers, according to a report from research nonprofit JUST Capital. The highest number of weeks were offered in the internet and software industries, averaging 16 to 18 weeks for primary caregivers and 12 to 17 weeks for secondary caregivers, while the transportation and healthcare industries offered the least, averaging 4 to 6 weeks for primary caregivers and four weeks for secondary caregivers.