Rio Tinto Group is making parental leave more accessible for employees by removing the distinction between primary and secondary caregivers.

The policy change — which takes effect in Canada in June and will be implemented worldwide by the end of 2023 — provides all new parents with 18 weeks of 100 per cent paid parental leave to be taken within the first two years of their child’s birth or adoption.

If both parents are Rio Tinto employees, their paid leave can be taken simultaneously or consecutively and parents are also entitled to additional unpaid leave following the 18-week period. The company, which has a mix of closed defined benefit pension plans and defined contribution pension plans, will also continue to make pension contributions for the employee’s entire leave.

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Vincent Morin, head of benefits at Rio Tinto, says the new policy is aligned with the company’s values and helps differentiate Rio Tinto’s employee benefits offering. “We decided the best thing to do was to treat every parent the same. In the past, one parent may have raised the children, but [today] you need both parents. . . . It’s a trend in Scandinavian countries, where the government encourages [both parents to take leave]. We want to follow this change in society and be a progressive employer.”

Also, with men accounting for roughly 80 per cent of Rio Tinto’s workforce, the policy change will allow more new fathers to take time off, says Morin, noting secondary caregivers were previously offered just one paid week of parental leave.

“Fathers [working for Rio Tinto] wanted to be there to support their spouse and family — it didn’t make sense they were only getting one week. Our executives thought there was something wrong [with that approach] and wanted to do something about it. . . . It was a very significant financial decision and we managed to get unanimous support from our leadership.”

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