Shell to offer at least 16 weeks maternity leave


Royal Dutch Shell headquarters in The Hague. (Jerry Lampen/Getty-AFP)

Royal Dutch Shell said Wednesday that beginning Jan. 1 it will offer at least 16 weeks paid maternity leave to its female employees worldwide.

The policy will particularly boost benefits for employees in 45 countries where there are only limited paid or unpaid maternity leave benefits, such as in the United States. Shell also has a new eight week paid parental leave policy that is gender neutral, said Natalie Gunnell, a spokeswoman for the company.

On its recruitment website, the oil giant said the maternity leave policy is designed to attract, and keep, women in the work force. Claire Punins, an exploration geologist for Shell, championed  a maternity leave standard at Shell, according to an article on the company’s website.

“All women should receive the support they need as new mothers, regardless of where they are in the world,” Punins wrote. “Having a global maternity standard at Shell is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. It makes us more attractive to women seeking jobs, and means they stay with us for longer.”

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In recent years, many U.S. companies have offered longer, paid maternity leave to employees, staying a step ahead of federal law, which requires companies with 50 or more employees to offer 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. As of last year, only 12 percent of U.S. employees had access to paid family leave, although paid parental leave (for women and men) is becoming more common in industries like technology,  where competition for workers is fierce.