Awesome Company Doubles New Moms’ Salaries After Maternity Leave

Coming back to full-time work after maternity leave is notoriously difficult. Many women intend to come back, but don’t, for a variety of reasons: They miss their baby, they don’t feel physically ready, breast-feeding is onerous, or the costs of child-care cancel out their salary. This is how many women end up stepping away from the workforce for at least a few years, which ends up lowering their lifetime salaries significantly. Now, one Australian company is trying to do something about that: It’s offering women a “welcome back to work payment” after maternity leave.

The Insurance Australia Group, which is one of the country’s biggest companies, already provides more than three months of paid maternity leave. But under its new plan, it will double the salaries of new mothers for their first six weeks back at work.

“This initiative came out of some discussions that we had with our people, and specifically women, on the difficulties and pressures that they faced upon returning to the workforce,” CEO Mike Wilkins tells Australian news outlet the ABC. “We think this welcome back payment is a good first step in helping them to address a number of those pressures.”

Wilkins says he anticipates the extra costs will be offset by the money saved recruiting new employees for mothers who would have otherwise left the company.

The “choice” not to return to work — I use scare-quotes because it’s often more of a calculation than a free-will expression of preference — can have serious long-term effects on women. Scholar Sylvia Ann Hewlett has found that women stepping away from the workforce for three years return with just 60% of their previous earning capacity [PDF]. If a little extra cash can help women afford day-care and incentivize them to stick it out through the difficult first weeks back in the office, it’ll benefit both employees and employer.

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    • Avodah

      I took off work for graduate school, may I have my salary doubled?

      Not all Grindstone readers are on the mommytrack. I’d like some more practical career advice rather than hearing the wishes of entitled breeders.

      • Trish

        It seems unnecessary to demean the choices of those you disagree with while trying to gain respect for your choices. Using the term breeders to degrade parents is just childish.

        As someone who also does not plan to have children, I think this payment increase is unfair to other employees who will not, or cannot, have children, without a similar incentive in place for the childless at other life milestones.

      • ms. meat

        is your graduate degree likely to cost you earnings in the long run? yeah… i thought not.

    • Ruth Graham

      I don’t have kids either, Avodah. By my quick count there’s only one other post about motherhood on the site’s main page right now, and that one’s about a major political news story about the language we use to talk about working moms (aka “entitled breeders”). Thanks for reading!

    • Avodah

      Ruth, there may be only one article right now (at this moment), but I have seen many, many articles (I use the term loosely) regarding maternity leave,working mothers, housewives, and more.

    • Jaye

      Awesome? More like awful. New parents are no more important than anyone else in this world, and just because someone didn’t have a baby doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of a little more money.

      Nice way to show people that may have to take off work for any other reason that they aren’t as important because they didn’t pop out a kid.

      Fail.

      • Avodah

        Amen.

      • Peace

        What a nice way to discriminate against the child free or men.

        FAIL!

    • Patricia

      “breeders”? Seriously? I thought demeaning people for having children went out of fashion in 2004. I guess I was wrong. Just as you don’t want to be demeaned for not having children, you shouldn’t feel entitled to do so to people who do.

      How is this discriminating against people who are not “on the mommy track”? I honestly do not see it. Although it is true that a childless person does not qualify for this incentive, they don’t qualify for paid maternity leave either. Are they being discriminated against? Seriously, this is so outrageous. This is an incentive to get employees to come back to work.

      And if it makes you feel any better; working parents, especially mothers are much less likely to get a promotion than their childfree colleagues, regardless of productivity. This is discrimination.

      • Avodah

        They are paying someone who had a child more money than someone who didn’t.

        That doesn’t seem right to me.

        Should they pay me more because I like SCUBA diving and it is expensive?

        Women with children are passed up for promotions because (a.) They do not put in the extra time and effort because they have other responsibilities (their families) or (b. they have chosen a career track with less room for growth and responsibility again, because they wish to care for their families instead

        There is nothing inherently wrong with that choice, unless these individuals feel entitled to something (paid maternity leave, bonus for *having* children, whatever)

      • Karen

        Thank you, Patricia! I don’t have kids and I think this is great…

    • Ruth Graham

      That’s well put, Trish. I think the difference is that other life milestones don’t so commonly push people out of the workforce. This is an incentive meant to retain workers at a “tipping point” that often finds them opting out of paid work. So it’s not just a random reward for child-bearing, it’s a strategic move with benefits to the company. And, yes, benefits to the woman, including some that go beyond just an extra six weeks of pay. Still worth debating, of course!

    • Stephanie

      And those of us who are infertile? I’m sure we’ll get $ back for failed treatments while we cover for those on maternity leave. Yeah right…

    • Avodah

      It was a life choice. Having a child is a life choice. I don’t expect anyone to pay me for my life choices.

      • Ruth Graham

        The point is that in a way, you ARE being paid for your life choices: You’re climbing the career ladder uninterrupted, which is a luxury mothers don’t have.

        Like it or not, most women do become mothers at some point in their lives. (About 80% of American women, based on super-fast Google research.) If we object to companies finding creative ways to help those women keep working through the difficult early years of their children’s lives, we are settling for a situation in which women will simply never catch up to men in salary or prestige. You might be just fine with that — there’s a real argument to be made there — but let’s be clear about it. Heck, let’s get rid of paid maternity leave, too.

        Again, this is not a “Congratulations, you had a child!” reward. It’s a strategic move meant to retain employees. If we allow 80% of women to drop out of the workforce for a few years, that raises recruitment and training costs significantly.

      • Avodah

        Ruth, I made a life choice that could lead to a better career than having a kid. However, I am not asking for a handout or a reward.

        People all make different life choices- some lead to career success and others do not.

        Perhaps companies should focus on retaining human capital by having flex hours, work from home options and more generous paid time off. This would help ALL employees instead of just people who have kids.

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    • Louise

      Unless you’ve been there it’s hard to understandand the value of this incentive, for the company and the individual. As a “breeder”( as it’s been stated), it’s difficult to find a balance after a new baby-childcare, ppd, and all the other imenities that seem to develop.

      For the “short” term that this is being offered, it deminishes so many concerns: time to acquire proper childcare; time to clear the mind and to emotionally breath; time to adjust to the idea of leaving your child into someone else’s hands-the list could go on and on.

      • orion70

        But new mothers returning to work are not the only ones who go through major adjustment concerns or financial difficulties, nor is the reverse always true.

        I am in the middle of attempting to return to work after cancer treatment. I feel like I too am depleted emotionally, psychologically, physically and financially. I have also missed out on advancement opportunities and am behind on training and new initiatives.

        Something like this should be applied on a case by case basis, in a general sense.

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