Talent shortage boosts parental leave and support policies

By Kate Birch
More organisations are delivering parental leave and support packages that go above and beyond, in a move to retain talent in a post-pandemic workforce

AB InBev, Virgin Money and law firm TLT are the latest UK companies to announce enhanced parental leave policies, in a move to attract and retain talent.

Job seekers are increasingly looking for organisations that go above and beyond with extra parental benefits, as recent Virgin Money research reveals. Six in 10 parents or expectant parents would switch jobs for better parental leave, if they had the option; while one in seven had already done so.

While all organisations have a legal obligation to offer maternity and paternity paid leave, research finds that almost a third of working parents think UK maternity and paternity benefits are outdated.

And in the post-pandemic job market, where the war for talent is raging, employers are having to ramp up their benefits if they want to both attract and retain talent.

Recent data from job site Indeed reveals that the number of jobs offering ‘generous’ or extended parental leave has risen by 201%, with enhanced parental leave packages now three times higher than it was in 2018.

Paid parental leave going above and beyond the statutory

In the UK, statutory maternity leave is up to 52 weeks, with statutory pay covering the first 39 weeks, while statutory paternity leave is just two weeks. New mothers receive 90% of their average weekly earnings in statutory pay for the first six weeks after their baby is born, followed by £151.97 a week for the next 33.

However, more and more UK firms are going above and beyond, with organisations leading in enhanced parental leave packages including Aviva, John Lewis, Unilever, Boots, BMI Healthcare, and Vodafone. Aviva was one of the first UK employers to launch an equal parental leave policy, offering new parents 12 months’ parental leave, with six months at full basic pay, and has since shown that the number of men and women now taking leave is almost equal. While John Lewis was the first UK retailer to offer all staff six months’ paid parental leave. Meanwhile, BMI pays for 13 weeks, and Vodafone and Unilever provide mothers with 16 weeks fully paid parental leave.

Among the latest firms to up the ante on their parental package is Virgin Money, which recently unveiled an increased flexible package that includes extended parental leave, giving mothers, fathers and those looking to adopt up to 20 weeks fully paid and 52 weeks leave overall. 

Drinks giant AB InBev has also introduced an enhanced parental policy. Covering its 13,500 employees in the UK and Europe, the policy gives primary caregivers a paid increase from 16 to 26 weeks, and secondary caregivers, from two to four weeks. While award-winning law firm TLT has significantly upped its family leave policy offering up to 16 weeks paid leave and 16 weeks half and doubling paternity leave to four weeks paid leave.

“It’s encouraging to see a growing number of companies, in a wide variety of sectors, go above and beyond to give their employees enhanced parental leave,’ says Paul Wolfe, senior VP of Indeed.

A more flexible approach to working for parents

Increasingly, however, parental policies are going beyond simply enhancing paid leave, to deliver further benefits that offer a more compassionate approach to family life, especially in light of the pandemic.

As Wolfe points out, “employers must also remember that parenting does not stop once their employee returns from leave”.

As well as its extended leave, Virgin Money is giving all its staff, including parents, five days wellbeing leave per year along with the freedom to work where and when they want, with no fixed expectations of time or days in the office.

Similarly, at AB InBev, parents will get greater flexibility when returning to work, including a special ramp-on period of eight weeks for staff with 100% pay for 75% of working time. 

And at TLT, the enhanced policy also provides four weeks’ paid parental bereavement leave, as well as offering parents of disabled paid leave to attend hospital appointments. The law firm is further introducing a ‘ramp down, ramp up’ approach which will enable those transitioning to and from family leave the chance to reduce their hours to 80% in the four weeks preceding leave and eight weeks returning from maternity, adoption and shared parental leave without an impact on compensation.

“By providing family-friendly benefits that are directly linked to feedback from our people, we are removing barriers and providing support which will allow us to retain and recruit the best people,” says Helen Hodgkinson, chief people officer at TLT.

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