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 models, working hour accounts for early retirement or the possibility to take an extended leave of absence. We also attach great importance to family matters and 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 employees the best possible working conditions. This includes both occupational illness and pension benefits as well as flexible working models. In many countries, our employees can already flexibly set their own working hours and location, making use of more than 30 different part-time working models. In Germany and the United States, where around 45% of our workforce is based, we offer parental leave conditions that exceed the respective minimum statutory requirements.
How we strengthen work-life balance
Human Resources (HR), which supports and advises all business sectors and Group functions within our company, develops measures for a healthy work-life balance.
During individual consultation sessions, experts assist our employees with retirement planning matters, for instance company pension benefits or long-term accounts. Representatives from the German Pension Insurance also visit our premises regularly to discuss statutory pension matters with employees.
You can find more information on the topic of illness benefits under “Health and safety”.
Our commitment: Group guidelines and local regulations
In 2019, we introduced our new Social and Labor Standards Policy. It harmonizes certain labor standards Group-wide, for instance on working hours and parental leave options, and reflects the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
At the end of 2018, our Executive Board adopted a Group-wide guideline on flexible work arrangements that aims to create even greater working time and location flexibility in the 12 countries where 75% of our employees work. In the second phase, we plan to roll out the guideline to further countries in 2020 and 2021. Apart from these 12 countries with the highest headcounts, we are simultaneously working on local provisions for Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Korea and are launching these as part of our “mywork” program.
Flexible working models
Our employees can choose between various flexible working models. Our “mywork” program, for instance, is available to employees at our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites (both in Germany), along with many other facilities across Asia, Australia and Europe. In agreement with their teams and supervisors, employees can freely choose their working hours and location. Together with their respective supervisors, the teams can decide for themselves when and how often fixed physical presence in the office is necessary for all members. Working hours are no longer recorded or monitored. This approach aims to strengthen the culture of performance and trust within the company. It is open to both exempt and non-exempt employees provided that their positions are suitable. In the coming years, we plan to roll out the mywork program globally following its successful establishment in Germany and Japan in 2013 and 2017, respectively. The model is currently being launched in Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. At the end of 2019, a total of 5,990 employees in Germany were enrolled in this program. In 2019, 5% of our employees worked part-time, 17% of whom were men.
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 (both in Germany). In 2019, a total of 95 employees signed up for this program, which 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 established a similar program in the United States.
Moreover, we offer female employees within our Life Science and Healthcare business sectors in the United States eight weeks of paid maternity leave, and in 2019, we introduced five weeks of paid paternal or adoption leave for employees in all three business sectors. 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.
At our sites in Germany (around 25% of our workforce), 792 employees were on parental leave in 2019, 40% of whom were men. In other key countries, we grant additional support benefits that exceed the legal requirements, such as paid 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 one to twelve has been located at our global headquarters in Darmstadt. This facility is funded by the Merck family (Kindertagesstätten-Verein e. V. of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany) and offers 150 places in the crèche, nursery school and school aftercare program. It is open year-round, Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new daycare center building took place in 2019. The current building will make room for a new one, which is scheduled for completion in early 2021. This will more than double the capacity of the daycare center from 60 to over 130 nursery school places and add 60 new crèche places.
In Darmstadt we furthermore offer an emergency childcare service to cover situations when regular childcare becomes unavailable. During school breaks in the German federal state of Hesse, we host a number of vacation camps focused on sports, art, research, and nature for up to 350 children. 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. For the children of our employees in Gernsheim, five places are available at a public daycare center.
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 www.care.com to find external childcare. Furthermore, in the United States we offer up to ten days of provisional childcare, as well as discounted daycare center places and home childcare.
Saving for retirement through a long-term account
We enable our employees in Germany to reduce their working hours before retirement or to 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 to reduce their working hours by 50% for up to six years. In 2019, over 9,500 employees made use of this option.
Taking a sabbatical
Generally, 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 an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Germany (20% of our workforce) can apply for a sabbatical, which gives them up to one year off from work. At the end of 2019, 66 people 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’ duration.
Assistance with family nursing and elder care
We offer special seminars and family care services to employees in Darmstadt (Germany) who are providing nursing care for family members. 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. In line with the German Family Leave Act and the German Home Care Leave Act, we are thus enabling employees to organize and provide nursing care for their family members.
In addition, we offer our employees in Germany family care seminars on a range of topics several times a year. In 2019, these addressed reconciling family nursing care with work obligations, financial and legal issues pertaining to family requiring nursing care, and geriatric dementia and depression. An external partner provides advice on all nursing care matters and supports employees in their search for suitable options. In Darmstadt, our company health insurance fund also connects people with nursing care staff, and, in the United States, our employees can use the website care.com to locate nursing care services. Additionally, telephone counseling services are offered at our sites in the 12 countries with the highest number of employees.
Our international Embracing Carers™ initiative aims to raise awareness of the needs of family caregivers while also offering them concrete assistance. More information on the program can be found under “Health awareness”.