Today’s demands on working parents has evolved greatly from what it used to be. As Malaysia embraces a growing digital economy, the expectations and skill sets required from today’s employee emphasises on the need to be agile, dynamic and results oriented. Building off these demands, companies have placed additional focus and priority on retaining and nurturing talents in order to retain a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced business environment. For women, besides establishing a successful career there is also a layered expectation for women to also be a winning home maker and mother.

Findings from the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) in 2016, identified that women have a fear of being pregnant and avoid applying for maternity leave. 40% of the women who participated in the survey revealed that they faced discrimination, such as being demoted, placed on prolonged probation, and even terminated. Recognizing the important role of women in the work force, Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister, M. Kulasegaran announced in December 2018 that Malaysia has a national goal of increasing women’s participation in the work force from 54.7% in 2017 to 56.5% in year 2020. As part of the government’s efforts in encouraging women back to the workforce, the government will provide returning mothers tax exemptions for up to 12 months for returning to work after a career break.

Embracing the importance of establishing a winning workplace and building talent, British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Berhad (BAT Malaysia) has committed to helping new and repeat parents strike a balance between managing a family and career with the launch of a global initiative titled Parents@BAT. Introduced in January 2019, this holistic programme enables mothers to win at work, at home and in their careers by enabling employees to plug into a support system that allows for extended maternity leave and flexible working arrangements post maternity.

Let’s talk parental leave
One of the key benefits for mothers working at BAT Malaysia is that they are entitled to a minimum of four months (120 days) and can opt for up to one year of maternity leave, while fathers can take up to 10 days of paternity leave. The current industry average is 60 days of maternity leave for mothers and three days of paternity leave for fathers.

Azleena Saduruddin, an employee at the company and proud mother to a five-month-old baby boy is currently on a six-month maternity leave. She said: “As a young mother, I needed time not only to recover from childbirth, but also to provide the best for my child through breastfeeding. Getting six months off meets WHO’s standards for breastfeeding, which I am grateful for as it gives me time to savour the precious moments with my new-born.” Azleena opted for a six-month maternity leave and she automatically qualifies for the return-to-work guarantee, allowing her to assume her previous role at the company, or a role that is similar in nature.

Flexible working options
Another great perk of the policy is that upon returning from maternity leave, mothers are given flexible working options that allow them to spend an equal amount of time on their careers and family. Through this perk, BAT moms are not forced to choose between career and baby, enabling them to establish a winning routine in the office and at home through reduced working hours or opting to work from home.

Juggling between caring for the family and building an established career is a real concern among mothers. This is highlighted in a study conducted across Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines in 2018 by global employment website, Monster, which revealed that 58% of mothers felt that they had missed out on career opportunities when they chose to start a family.

Parents@BAT – Not Just For New Mothers
To ensure that the program is as inclusive as possible, Parents@BAT is non-discriminatory in nature and extends to repeat parents and even un-conventional forms of motherhood like adoption. This feature makes this plan unique and stands it apart from the standardc maternity benefits offered by companies.

A Holistic Support System
Unlike conventional maternity benefits, Parents@BAT is a comprehensive and holistic approach that supports employees in their career and life transition as parents. Meaning, as soon as an employee announces the impending arrival of a new bundle of joy – employees are able to connect with their line managers and peers to set in key career milestones and agree on a flexible working schedule that keeps their career growth on track while caring for a new baby.

Talent building is integral in driving the country towards a move advanced economy and socio-economic wellbeing, as such, organisations like BAT Malaysia play an important role in providing a conducive environment for talent growth. Policies such as Parents@BAT ensures that mothers are not made to choose between building a family and having a successful career but instead empowered to win at home, work and career.