Wall Street Journal Blog


by Lauren Weber / March 6

Any woman coming back to work after maternity leave can tell you it’s a mixed bag. Adult company can be invigorating after the isolation of weeks at home with an infant. On the other hand, most new mothers are sleep-deprived, adjusting to a new life and deeply attached to the babies they are now leaving in someone else’s hands.

And, as employers are beginning to realize, the arrival of a new baby prompts plenty of women to wonder whether their careers are worth the tradeoffs. At Vodafone Group VOD +0.15% PLC, 65% of women who left after a maternity leave were quitting in the first year back at the office.

So the U.K. telecommunications provider decided to make some changes. Today, it announced a global policy intended to ease new mothers’ transition back to work, paying them full-time salaries for 30-hour workweeks for up to six months after their return.

In addition, all female employees in Vodafone’s 30 operating companies across the world will have access to at least 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave. The changes will be in place by the end of 2015.

It’s an unusual step, especially in the United States, said Anne Weisberg, a senior vice president at the Families and Work Institute, which conducts research on parental-leave policy. Some companies have phased-return policies, where women can come back to work part-time at first. But in the cases Ms. Weisberg is aware of, salaries are pro-rated. Vodafone’s move is a way to send the message to female employees that “we understand we’ve made an investment in you and this is the best way to protect our investment,” she said.

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