We know that priorities in life can shift. That is why we are considerate of such changes, offering our employees a range of options, such as flexible working hour models, working hour accounts for early retirement or the possibility to take an extended leave of absence. As regards family topics, we support employees through generous parental leave, childcare and assistance in finding nursing care for family members.
Our approach to ensuring a good work-life balance
We realize how important work-life balance is for a productive and motivated workforce, which is why we seek to offer our people the best possible working conditions. This includes both company health and pension benefits as well as flexible working hour models. In many countries, our employees can already flexibly set their own working hours, making use of more than 30 different part-time working models. In Germany, the United States, Brazil, and India, where around 53% of our workforce is based, we offer parental leave conditions that exceed the respective minimum statutory requirements.
How we strengthen work-life balance
Group Human Resources (HR) develops and also implements measures for a healthy work-life balance. For instance, it provides relevant support and advice to employees throughout the Group.
In personal appointments, company experts assist our employees with retirement planning matters, for instance company pension benefits or long-term accounts. Representatives from the German statutory pension insurance system also visit our premises regularly to discuss statutory pension matters with employees.
More information on the topic of healthcare benefits can be found under Health and safety.
Our commitment: Group guidelines and local regulations
Our Social and Labor Standards Policy harmonizes certain labor standards Group-wide, for instance on working hours and parental leave options. It is oriented towards the labor standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
At the end of 2018, our Executive Board had already adopted a Group-wide guideline on flexible working models. As a consequence, this created even greater working hour and location flexibility in the 13 countries where around 75% of our employees work. We are currently revising this guideline in order to expand it by 2021 to all countries in which we operate (more details can be found in the following section).
Flexible working models
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, our employees could choose between various flexible working models. Our experiences in terms of employee performance and engagement during the pandemic were positive across the board. That is why we will launch our well-established “mywork” program at all our sites around the world by the end of 2021. At the end of 2020, 22 countries were already using our flexible working model.
Our mywork program allows employees to freely choose their working hours and location (in the same country) in agreement with the teams and supervisors. Together with their respective supervisors, the teams can decide for themselves when and how often physical presence in the office is necessary for all members. We no longer record or monitor working hours. The model applies to non-exempt and exempt employees and strengthens the culture of performance and trust in our company. It is also part of our Group-wide “Future Ways of Working” program, through which we are developing principles for our future collaboration.
Supporting mothers and fathers
We want to make it easier for our employees to return to work after parental leave, which is why we offer a program for parents in Darmstadt and Gernsheim (Germany). It gives mothers and fathers on parental leave the chance to interact while also helping them stay in touch with the company. In addition, they can make use of various training and networking opportunities. We have established a similar program in the United States.
Moreover, we offer female employees in the United States eight weeks of paid maternity leave. In addition, we have introduced five weeks of paid paternity or adoption leave there. By contrast, the statutory minimum requirement only provides for 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave per year. In the case of an adoption, we also reimburse up to US$ 5,000 in adoption fees.
In 2020, 538 employees of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany (around 15% of our workforce) were on parental leave, around 50% of whom were men. In other key countries, we grant additional support benefits that exceed the legal requirements, such as unpaid parental leave for employees in Brazil. In India, too, we offer five days of paid paternity leave even though it is not legally required.
In offering these benefits, we do not differentiate between full- and part-time staff or employees with fixed-term contracts. The latter may apply for parental leave until the end of their employment contract, with their employment continuing as agreed until the contract ends.
Childcare and support
For more than 50 years, a daycare center for children aged 1-12 has been located at our global headquarters in Darmstadt. It offers 150 places in the crèche, nursery school and school aftercare program. The current building will make room for a new one, which is scheduled for completion in early 2021. The capacity of the daycare center will then increase to 270 places.
In Darmstadt we furthermore offer an emergency childcare service to cover when regular childcare is not available. In addition, we offer the possibility of in-home care for acutely ill children. For up to two days a year, parents throughout Germany can engage the services of a trained educator free of charge to look after their children at home. Five places at a public daycare center are reserved for the children of our employees in Gernsheim.
Our facility in Mumbai, our main site in India, also has a daycare center for the children of our employees. In the United States, parents can visit the digital platform care.com to book external childcare. Furthermore, in the United States, we offer up to ten days of emergency childcare, as well as discounted daycare center places and childcare in the home.
Saving for retirement through a long-term account
We enable our employees in Germany to reduce their working hours before retirement or retire earlier by drawing on a long-term account. For instance, they can deposit salary components or comp days into the account. On top of this, our company provides subsidies to encourage the use of these long-term accounts. Employees can then utilize the accrued balance to stop working up to three years before regular retirement or reduce their working hours by 50% for up to six years. In 2020, more than 10,000 employees made use of this option.
Making sabbaticals possible
In principle, all employees of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, of Merck Healthcare KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Merck Real Estate GmbH, Darmstadt, Germany an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Germany (around 20% of our workforce) can apply for a sabbatical, which gives them up to one year off from work. At the end of 2020, 62 employees were on sabbatical. For personal emergencies in which an employee needs an immediate leave of absence, we additionally offer an emergency sabbatical of up to three months.
Assistance with family nursing and elder care
For our employees in Darmstadt who are caring for family members, we provide special seminars and family care services. Moreover, through our family leave model, we offer employees throughout Germany the possibility to take a short- or long-term leave of absence, either part-time or full-time. Our employees in the United States can use the platform care.com to find information about nursing care services.