From the end of the year, the telecoms giant will offer women at least 16 weeks of maternity leave with full pay, a policy which the firm said could create a $19bn boost to business every year if it were adopted by other companies.
It will also pay women a full salary for working a 30-hour week in the first six months they return to work.
"Too many talented women leave working life because they face a difficult choice between either caring for a newborn baby or maintaining their careers,” said chief executive Vittorio Colao. Our new mandatory minimum global maternity policy will support over 1,000 Vodafone women employees every year in countries with little or no statutory maternity care.
Women account for 35 per cent of Vodafone’s employees worldwide but just 21 per cent of its international senior leadership team, said Colao.
We believe our new maternity policy will play an important role in helping to bridge that gap. Supporting working mothers at all levels of our organisation will ultimately result in better decisions, a better culture and a deeper understanding of our customers' needs.
While a number of its subsidiaries already offered substantial maternity benefits - which will continue - the new mandatory minimum global maternity policy would make a significant difference to women in countries where there is little or no legislative requirements on maternity leave.
Offering women a mandatory minimum of 16 weeks leave would cost business an additional $28bn a year, according to research by KPMG. However, this is more than offset by the costs to business of women leaving the workforce: recruiting and training new employees to replace women who leave the workforce costs business $47bn a year, it said.