Solvay Cares, and here’s how it shows…
Extended parental leave for ALL parents
“My wife loves Solvay!” exclaims Jorge Ordonez-Cordova, a 28-year-old process engineer at Solvay’s Peroxide plant in Deer Park, Texas.
Why does she love the company so much? Well, largely because when their first baby was born early 2021, Solvay had just decided to extend its parental leave to 16 weeks. One year later, nearly 200 of the company’s employees have benefitted from this policy – in other words, 200 babies have joined the Solvay family!
“I’ve never heard of a company that gives this much time to fathers. I feel extremely fortunate,” he says. He cites the case of his colleague at Solvay who is enjoying a longer parental leave than his wife – the standard maternity leave in the US being 12 weeks. “When I started working at Solvay, I knew it was a very family-oriented company, and I’ve seen their focus on family growing consistently ever since. They really care about their people, and I’m proud to be able to brag about working here.”
Paternity leave to raise the bar for gender equality
Since 1 January 2021, all Solvay employees who become new parents are entitled to those same 16 weeks of paid parental leave, whether they are the child’s mother, father, stepparent or adopter, and regardless of the country they live in. This is part of the extension of our Solvay Cares package of benefits that extends to all 23,000 of the Group’s employees, and which also covers Medical care, Disability and Life insurance. Ultimately, Solvay provides benefits such as these in order to provide a Better Life for its employees.
This new parental policy substantially raises the bar for equality: Solvay formerly offered 14 weeks of maternity leave, 1 week for paternity and 1 week in the case of adoption. In 2020, parental leave in the US was increased to 8 weeks, before it was doubled the following year. “This initiative will do a lot to promote diversity, inclusion and the balance between work and personal life,” says Hervé Tiberghien, the Group's Chief People Officer, our global head of human resources.
It also gives our employees everywhere around the world a level of benefits that is unheard of in the vast majority of countries, especially for fathers. We asked a few dads who are enjoying or planning to enjoy their time off with their newly expanded family what they thought of Solvay’s policy.
Solvay makes life easier for families
“When I first told my wife that my paternity leave was extended by two months, she thought I was joking,” says Peihan Shi, who is PVDF Plant Operator at Specialty Polymers’ Changshu site near Shanghai, and whose first son was also born early 2021. “All of my friends and relatives were surprised too.” Peihan has been putting his free time to good use by taking over all the housework while his wife takes care of the baby. He admits feeling a little concerned at first about being absent from work for such a long time, “but my managers and my team have been very supportive. I’m really grateful to all of them.”
Further north, in China’s Shandong province, Ruzi Zhang, who handles alumina sales & technology services, also says his managers and colleagues were “super supportive” of his decision to take two months off when his second baby came in July 2021. “I’m a salesperson, and I travel almost every week; sometimes I’m only at home for the weekends. I’m quite ashamed that my wife had to shoulder most of the responsibilities to bring up our first son, so the extended paternity leave will be hugely helpful. We’re proud to be part of this big thoughtful family that is Solvay.”
Paid leave makes for happier parents
Over in Brazil, João Pancotto, who is Account Manager at Novecare América Latina, was one of the first Solvay employees in the country to enjoy the new parental policy, and he is “thankful for the greater comfort and security it provided to experience this moment of immense joy.”
His fellow countryman Caíque Siqueira Piai, an Industrial Maintenance mechanic at the Santo André Textile Unit in São Paulo, is preparing for the arrival of his second child in June. He opted for a 60-day paternity leave through Solvay Cares, a huge improvement over the 5-day leave he got for the birth of his first son, back in 2016. “That year, my wife spent four days in the hospital, and then faced health complications at home. It is essential for me to be there this time to help my wife recover, adapt to the arrival of our second child, help with housework, etc. It will be two months of great care, support and learning a new routine.”
In addition to being there to help with practical tasks, parental leave is also a matter of creating a strong bond between father and baby in the first weeks of life, as well as providing emotional support for the mother, as says Dr. Bright Kusema, a research scientist at the E2P2L research lab in Shanghai whose second child was born early 2021. “My wife and I are both foreigners in China. Due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, our parents couldn’t come to support us. Taking the 16-week paternity leave is certainly very helpful to reduce the burden on my wife, but it’s also about being present and participating during this challenging period. Family is a fundamental aspect of our lives and the paternity leave reinforces our bonding.”