The Maersk Group is enhancing its maternity policy to increase the retention of its female employees.

The new program, which will be introduced from April 4, includes a global guaranteed minimum of 18 weeks maternity leave on full pay for all employees, as well as a phased reintegration to work for all onshore staff.

“In research conducted for us by KPMG evidence suggests that maternity leave policies have an influence on the labour market participation by contributing to higher employment rates of women,” said Lucien Alziari, head of group HR for the shipping company.

“This new policy supports our aim to retain the talented women working in the group and attract even more to gain access to future and wider talent pools and strengthen our business results.”

The KPMG study of Maersk Group’s retention of female employees after childbirth in 76 countries shows that between 2012 and 2014 the maternity retention rate was less than 70%.

As of February 2015, the Maersk Group employed more than 23,000 women and approximately 500 women have gone on maternity leave each year over the past three years.

The new policy aims to improve terms for women working for the group in at least 51 countries out of the 130 in which it operates compared to the statutory minimum. In the U.S., more than 1,200 women employed will be eligible for 18 weeks of paid leave compared to their current paid leave, which is typically six weeks. In India, the typical 12 weeks of paid maternity leave will now be 18 weeks.

The return-to-work programme gives onshore employees the opportunity to work 20% less hours at full contractual pay within the first year of childbirth or adoption for up to six months after returning to work.

“When implemented, the new policy will strengthen our efforts to retain talented women, while at the same time result in additional benefits to the group; for example, via reduced hiring costs and productivity loss,” said Alziari. “Our aspiration is to reach a global best practice maternity retention rate of 90% over time.”

The new policy also includes one week of paternity leave and, depending on local laws, the Maersk Group’s new policy may provide some paid leave for the primary caregiver to the new child either male or female.

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