Vodafone has put a compulsory maternity leave package for its worldwide employees, regardless of whether regional laws require maternity support or not.

It will offer at least 16 weeks of full paid maternity leave, as well as full pay for a 30-hour week for the first six months after their return to work to every employee regardless of where they live.

The tech firm’s chief executive Vittorio Colao, said: “Too many talented women leave working life because they face a difficult choice between caring for a newborn baby and maintaining their careers.

“Women account for 35 percent of our employees worldwide but only 21 percent of our international senior leadership team. 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.”

The move will make a significant difference to the lives of thousands of Vodafone employees in countries where there is little or no legislative requirement to provide maternity support.

It covers Africa, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the US.

Global businesses could save up to $19 million (£13 million) a year by moving to the 16-week maternity leave model, as it encourages employee retention and saves on hiring and training replacement employees, KPMG said.

The firm estimated that the cost of recruiting and training new employees to replace women who do not stay in the workforce after having a baby costs global businesses $47 billion (£31 billion) every year.

Additionally, offering mothers a global return-to-work policy equivalent to a four-day week at full pay for their first six months back to work after maternity leave could save working mothers a cumulative $14 billion (£9 billion) in childcare for their new babies, KPMG found.