Model Practice Leave of Absence Career Roundtable Program

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

Industry: Professional Services

Principle I: Employment and Compensation

Principle II: Work-Life Balance & Career Development

As part of a workplace culture that embraces diversity and inclusion, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) has a number of initiatives and practices that promote gender equality. The PwC model practice being highlighted pertains to PwC’s Leave of Absence Career Roundtable Program (LOA CRT Program).

The Career Roundtable is the firm’s annual performance evaluation for staff. PwC’s LOA CRT Program is a voluntary option that supports eligible staff members during their transition back to work following an approved leave of absence of at least 16 consecutive weeks. Eligible staff who elect to participate will be able to opt out of certain elements of the firm’s performance management process and their compensation will be based on their prior year’s performance.

"During my maternity leave, I briefly considered leaving the workforce or switching careers to a lower pressure environment – I didn’t know how I would be able to juggle being a full-time Director at PwC while also being the full-time parent I wanted to be for my daughter…The impact of this program felt like a weight off my shoulders…and I’m proud to work for a firm that supports and values its working mothers." 
San Francisco

The LOA CRT Program, coupled with PwC’s generous parental leave policies, provides participants (most commonly women returning to work from maternity leave) the opportunity to transition back to work during a challenging time in their lives without the pressure of worrying about their performance ratings and impact on compensation. This program is one of the methods used to retain women who may otherwise choose to leave the workforce instead of returning to work after an extended leave of absence.

How does this practice work?

The program is available to over 35,000 PwC staff who work in the U.S. firm should they meet the eligibility requirements, which include length of the leave of absence (16 weeks), a satisfactory previous year performance, if returned to work, and a current satisfactory performance. The program policy details are available to all U.S. staff on PwC’s intranet site. As the performance year is ending, individual eligibility notifications are sent directly to eligible staff, their coach and human resources manager with details on the option and “opt in” process. In addition, human resources staff members are encouraged to share the LOA CRT policy criteria with all of their staff departing on leave throughout the year.

The success of this practice is measured by the number of people who take advantage of the program by returning to work after their extended leave of absence, and by the percentage of those individuals who stay more than two years beyond their return.
On average, over 80% of eligible high performers opt to take advantage of the program, and a majority of participants are women. A study of program outcomes over time show that women who take advantage of the program are more likely to return from leave. Program participation is not announced or disclosed to the team members of participants. The program is designed to retain talented staff. The firm continues to receive positive feedback from participants who reference this program as supporting them during a transition year.

"Knowing the firm had this program gave me a peace of mind that PwC valued my life outside of the office and my desire to start my family while maintaining my relationship with the firm. I have never felt like I needed to make a choice between starting my family and continuing my career which is a huge blessing that not many companies provide." 
Senior Manager
San Francisco

Based on the feedback over the years, PwC has changed the program to broaden its positive impact for more staff. Originally, eligibility was limited to high-performing men and women who took 22 weeks of an eligible leave. Over the past few years, the program has expanded to include anyone on extended leave of absence for more than 16 weeks. This includes individuals (both men and women) taking care of family members, individuals out for illnesses, and other reasons for taking an extended leave. Broadening the eligible population has helped both men and women feel more supported by the firm. PwC continues to seek feedback and improvements regarding the LOA-CRT Program (and others) to support a culture of gender equality in the workplace.

How can I adopt this practice in my workplace?

This practice is scalable as it is simply a policy change. There is no upfront capital investment required, nor are there ongoing additional funds required to implement, outside of compensation and any administrative costs.

Implementation of this program would require the following steps at a high level:

1. Obtain management approval regarding the concept.
2. Draft the leave of absence policy document (can easily be one page or less as it is not a complex policy). This policy should include cutoff dates, length of leave required, specific details regarding the company’s annual performance review process, etc.
3. Educate Human Resources and other management regarding the policy.
4. Evangelize the program across the organization so employees understand what the program is and that it is an available option should they meet eligibility requirements.

Execution of this program would require the following steps at a high level:

1. Someone with access to employees’ leave of absence data can identify the individuals eligible for the program each year.
2. The eligible individuals will be notified by letter if currently on leave, or via email if they have returned to work.
3. If the eligible individuals want to participate in the program, they will need to discuss with their supervisor and Human Resources for approval.
4. During the annual performance review process, the program participants are removed from the reviewee pool, but are still discussed related to their career progression and feedback.
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