Australian company IAG rewards new moms for returning to work

One of Australia's largest companies is making it easier for new parents to juggle work and family: Starting this week, new moms who return to work at the Insurance Australia Group (IAG) will get double pay for their first six weeks back after maternity leave.

"Yes it's generous, but we're a business and it is about making sure we get quality people coming back to us," IAG chief executive Mike Wilkins told the Sydney Morning Herald.

IAG already offers one of the most generous maternity leave policies in the industry -- 14 weeks of paid time off after giving birth or adopting a child. Their six-week "welcome back bonus" is on top of that -- and in addition to an Australian government policy that gives new parents up to 18 weeks pay at minimum wage or a $5,400 "Baby Bonus" per child, whichever is greater.

It's a stark contrast to parental leave policies in the United States, where the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 mandates that companies over a certain size offer up to 12 weeks of job-protected parental leave, but without pay. The United States is one of just four countries in the world without a national law requiring paid time off for new parents (the other countries are Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland).

"This initiative came out of discussions that we had with our people -- and specifically women -- on the difficulties and pressures that they faced upon returning to the workforce," Wilkins told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We think this welcome back payment is a good first step in helping them to address a number of those pressures."

IAG relationships manager Rebecca Isaachsen, who is 43 and pregnant with her third child, agrees.

"This will take away the financial worry," she told Australia's Daily Telegraph. "This could be the difference in the choice between having kids and not having kids."

More than half of IAG's 10,000 employees are women, the International Business Times reported, and 500 to 600 IAG employees go on maternity leave each year. The company's goal is to have one third of all  senior management positions filled by women by 2015, Wilkins said, adding that he thinks the welcome back bonus "will help us achieve that, by really ensuring we are an employer of choice for mothers and families."

The bonuses will be offset by the fact that the company will not have to recruit or train new staff members to replace those who go on leave, Wilkins said. And the company really values the skills honed by motherhood.

"We want people who can multitask inside the organization," he told the Daily Telegraph. "And I think mums are the ultimate multitaskers."

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