EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Worldwide guarantees


Worldwide guarantees represent a commitment to improving employees’ working conditions in multinational companies, ensuring the same employment rights and level of social protection in their different operations across the world. Recently, some multinational companies have pledged to provide such rights, set out in worldwide guarantees, without first participating in social dialogue or collective bargaining with global union federations, as is normally the practice when drawing up international framework agreements.

Current status

Healthcare and social security

Several multinationals provide benefits in terms of social protection that go beyond national standards. On 31 January 2020, French cosmetics group L’Oréal (86,000 employees) announced the launch of its new Employee Human Rights Policy. The group commits ‘to uphold a set of universal human and social rights standards for all its employees worldwide, regardless of their geographic location or position in the Group’.[1] Employees (or their families) will receive ‘at least twenty-four months’ salary in the event of death or permanent incapacity and ... access to major medical treatments’, with L’Oréal guaranteeing reimbursement of at least 75% of related costs.

On 13 February 2020, French group Saint-Gobain (180,000 employees) put forward its CARE by Saint-Gobain programme, which includes minimum guaranteed levels of healthcare coverage. The company will cover, for employees and their families, 80% of expenses payable to general practitioners or arising from hospitalisation. Furthermore, the programme guarantees a capital sum of one year’s salary in the event of an employee’s death, payable to their family. [2]

Acceleration due to the COVID-19 crisis

The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated decision-making on social protection in several multinational groups. For instance, on 29 April 2020, the management of French energy group Engie (177,000 employees), which was already in the process of negotiating an international framework agreement with global union federations IndustriALL Global Union, PSI and IBB, decided to implement with immediate effect one chapter of the future agreement establishing a common social protection base. [3] In a declaration approved by the three federations, the group announced the launch of a programme providing for full coverage of employees’ COVID-19-related hospitalisation costs and a minimum of 75% of their hospitalisation costs whatever the cause. In addition, the group introduced life insurance coverage equivalent to 12 months’ gross salary in respect of all deaths that had occurred since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. [4]

In March 2020, French food production group Danone announced an extensive package of measures covering health, childcare and quarantine for all employees worldwide. Italian energy group Enel drew up an insurance policy to cover the group’s 68,000-plus employees worldwide in the event of hospitalisation should they contract COVID-19. [5] Hotel group Accor created a €70 million fund to pay for the COVID-19-related hospital expenses for its 300,000 employees who do not have social security insurance.

Work–life balance

Some of these worldwide guarantees seek to improve employees’ work–life balance. In its Employee Human Rights Policy, L’Oréal commits to providing ‘a minimum maternity leave of 14 weeks paid at 100% of the salary and a minimum paternity leave of 10 days paid at 100% of the salary’. The CARE by Saint-Gobain programme includes a minimum of 14 weeks’ maternity or adoption leave on full pay and a minimum of 3 days’ leave on full pay in the case of paternity or partner leave. [6] On 6 March 2020, Spanish bank Santander (196,419 employees) announced the introduction of at least 14 weeks paid leave for mothers and 4 weeks (or two periods of 15 days) for the second parent during the child’s first year. The first measure increased leave for mothers in three countries (Argentina, Mexico and the United States) and the second measure increased it for the second parents in six countries (Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Uruguay). These guarantees are to be gradually extended across the whole group over a three-year period. [7]


Santander has also taken an additional step forward in its commitment to diversity by recommending that countries with legal requirements to employ people with disabilities meet or exceed the regulatory demands by effectively hiring employees with disabilities, rather than simply complying with the requirements by making financial contributions. For countries where there is no legal quota, the group recommends increasing by one percentage point the number of employees with disabilities. Santander also encourages the entire group to implement local programmes to support employees having close relatives with disabilities.

Related dictionary terms

Corporate social responsibility International Framework Agreement work–life balance maternity leave parental leave


  1. ^ L’Oréal (2020), L’Oréal launches Employee Human Rights Policy, 31 January.
  2. ^ Saint-Gobain (2020), Saint-Gobain introduces social protection program for all employees worldwide, 13 February.
  3. ^ Industrial Global Union (2020), Global unions welcome ENGIE’s commitment to cover Covid-19 related health care and social security for employees, 29 April.
  4. ^ ENGIE (2020), ENGIE pursues its Covid-19 aid actions via three global initiatives, 29 April.
  5. ^ ENEL (2020), ENEL draws up COVID-19 insurance policy for all its global employees, 26 March.
  6. ^ Saint-Gobain (2020), Saint-Gobain introduces social protection program for all employees worldwide, 13 February.
  7. ^ Santander (2020), Banco Santander has implemented a group wide minimum standard for parental leave, 6 March.

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