New benchmark for parental leave policies

The biggest driver of parental leave policies is the competition for talent. So said 54 per cent of respondents to a new benchmarking survey conducted by Bright Horizons / My Family Care in partnership with HRreview.

The just-launched Benchmark report provides employers with headlines on current policies together with a detailed ‘league table’ listing enhanced pay offerings across a range of sectors and sizes of employers. Around 400 organisations in the UK responded to this year’s Benchmark Survey during February and March, providing insights into their policy drivers and plans while over 250 of these provided detailed anonymous input on their enhanced pay for maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental leave.

The report will help employers decide how to pitch their policies, whether aiming for best in class, or simply ‘good enough’ provision for parents against others in their sector.

Headlines include: Seventy-seven per cent enhance Maternity / Adoption / Surrogacy pay (the three most popular full pay periods being 26, 12 or 13 weeks. Twelve per cent of all ‘enhancers’ pay 26 weeks); Sixty-eight per cent enhance Paternity Pay (fully paid paternity leave is rising: 43 per cent of all respondents provide 2 weeks). Forty per cent of all respondents enhance Shared Parental Pay in some way (and 40 per cent of those who enhance Maternity Pay are fully matching SPL while of those who do not equalise, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) are actively reviewing.

Paternity Leave is certainly an area of change and growth, as this year’s benchmark highlights. While the 43 per cent of the survey population offering 2 weeks account for 67 per cent of all enhancers, seven per cent of enhancers provide a full 4 weeks paid paternity leave and several now enhance 6, 8 or 12 weeks.

While Shared Parental Leave offers the most flexible and gender-neutral form of leave, providing ring-fenced paternity leave is a trend that ensures those families who do not wish, or cannot afford, to share their leave and care more fully, do still achieve a helpful period of bonding time, which is likely to pay dividends later in terms of family stability and wellbeing, as well as loyalty to the employer.

However, in an increasingly fluid world in terms of parental roles, the league table ranked overall offerings on the basis of the pay package across types of leave regardless of gender (calculating and comparing pay based on a notional £750 per week salary). The top reported package overall enables parents of any gender and any parenting role to take 26 weeks’ fully paid leave (followed where relevant by further weeks at statutory pay). Top purely for Maternity / Adoption pay stands at 39 weeks’ pay at 100 per cent. Two respondents offered this but differed markedly on their gender inclusivity: one (Charity sector) matched this with Shared Parental Leave (SPL) while the other (Creative, Marketing & Advertising) offered no enhancement for SPL but four weeks’ full pay for Paternity Leave.

The report also serves as a reminder that pay is not the only route and there are other key ways of engaging and retaining talented people through parental leave. Phased returns are popular and 40 per cent are using Keeping in Touch days to achieve this while 38 per cent use holidays in a similar way (likely including a cross-over in a multi-choice question).

Other forms of enabler include: Establishing a parents’ network (17 per cent); Providing advice or support in finding childcare (16 per cent); Providing coaching to the individuals (14 per cent); Backup Care for when usual solutions fail (13 per cent); Training / coaching or guidance to line managers (11 per cent); Online / App-based coaching / advice (seven per cent) and onsite childcare support (two per cent). Many of these fit well with recent Government Equalities Office advice on family-friendly actions to close the Gender Pay Gap, pointing in a positive direction for UK good practice.

Interested in the parental transition? we recommend you join our free live webinar, The Parental transition: The latest on policy, practice and benefits at 11:00am today





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