Revealing the parental leave policy of the UK’s top 50 companies

Want to know which companies are the most generous for maternity and paternity leave? A new blog by the name m&pper breaks down how the parental leave policies of nearly 50 of the UK’s largest companies stack up. Tracking the likes of UK employers, including Burberry, The Guardian, Unilever, PwC and the NHS, if you want to find out where the best support is at, or you’re just feeling a little nosy, this free to use platform which gathers user-provided data about what’s on offer in terms of parental leave policy at some of the UK’s biggest employers.

With the aim of helping families of all kinds to plan ahead for a family, I say hats off to you in this noble effort. I had a word with the creator to get the lo-down on some of the trends  discovered within….

Which company, out of all those logged to date, has hands-down the best parental leave policies?

So far, Unilever comes up trumps, reportedly offering mothers 39 weeks on full pay and fathers two weeks on full pay. I haven’t yet come across anyone else with such generous policies. It’s probably the reason Mumsnet awarded the company top marks at their Family Friendly awards (and no, I don’t have any connection to Unilever!).

Overall, which sectors lead the way?

Law firms tend to do very well, probably because they invest so much in their employees from an early stage by sponsoring trainee solicitors through law school. They make a big investment in their people and they’re keen to try and encourage them to return to work. In general, I would say that the more specialist skills a typical employee has – solicitors or accountants, for example – the more generous a company tends to be, as their employees are harder to replace.

Is it true that companies are overall bad at supporting their employees with parental leave policies?

Actually, many companies are incredibly supportive of working parents, although some more so than others. In the cases where employers offer less help, I don’t think the companies have deliberately set out to be unsupportive, and they all still abide by the statutory minimums set out by the government. It is obviously harder for some employers than others, and the more profitable the business the easier they should find it to support working parents.

You’d expect public sector employers to offer less than the private sector, for instance. But there are many ways of offering support beyond cold hard cash. Small businesses who don’t employ many people will often struggle to pay a particularly generous maternity payout, but may well be able to offer things like flexible working or job shares that make parents’ lives easier.

Do you feel there is still much work to be done in the area of improving parental leave policies?

Yes – in most cases I think there is room for improvement, but as I say, it’s not all about the cash. As well as offering more generous terms regarding pay and leave, companies could consider things like maternity coaching, flexible and/or remote working, job-sharing, on-site childcare, flexible emergency leave, and family health benefits like medical insurance. I hope that by having more transparency around what’s on offer in general we can encourage employers to take inspiration from one another.

Do you prescribe to the idea that there is a direct correlation between new parental leave policy and employee retention?

Yes, I am sure there will be a link. Employee retention is obviously affected by  the way an employer treats its employees overall, and parental leave/pay policies are indicative of an overall attitude, in my opinion.

In an ideal world, what would you like to see as the mandatory maternity and paternity leave?

I don’t think it is possible to prescribe a one-size-fits-all policy. So much depends on the specific needs of the employee and their family, the role that employee has within the business, and what the company is able to offer while remaining profitable. I would like to see employers move towards being more flexible overall and more open to developing new approaches. People are always going to want to have babies. People are always going to want to have careers. I would like to see employers taking the initiative to make these two things more compatible.

m&pper is an incredible resource – what inspired you to create it?

I came up with the idea for the site because it’s something that I went looking for on the internet myself. I am a woman in my early thirties, in full time employment and hoping to start a family, and I have been shocked at the disparity between what different employers offer, even within the same industry. When I couldn’t find anything that explained what’s on offer, I decided to get a blog going myself. With nearly 50 employers’ policies up there so far, it’s proving popular so far.

Anything else you would like to add?

m&pper is a free resource which doesn’t require registration – but I would strongly encourage anyone visiting the site to answer the anonymous survey about their own employer’s maternity/paternity policies. Information is power! We want to equip people with the details they need to make informed decisions.  To do that, we need data.

Visit m&pper to get the lo-down about the parental leave policies of nearly 50 of the UK’s largest companies – please note the m&pper website is currently down.

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  1. This is a brilliant post! 🙂 It’s definitely something that’s VERY high on my priority list – a year or so ago, I was offered a new job at a new company but I turned it down because my hubby and I wanted to start a family and I had no way of finding out (without brazenly asking them) for the nitty gritty details of their maternity leave policy. It seemed safer to stay at my current firm even though I wasn’t that happy and I wouldn’t get the salary increase…because at least I knew what their policy was. It really does make a huge difference.

    M&pper looks fab, I’m going to check now if my employer is on there! I’m really glad it’s got info there on how long you need to work at a place to get their enhanced package – that varies hugely, I’ve worked at places where it’s 6 months and others where it’s 3 years!

    Thanks for the great post. 🙂

  2. My one piece of advice, based on personal experience, is to check the small print of the maternity / paternity packages. What an employer gives with one hand, they often take away with another.

    A few of the women who were pregnant at the same time as me had incredibly generous maternity packages. But if you didn’t return to work afterwards and stay for a minimum period, you had to repay some / all difference between what you’d got and the statutory. A few of them ended up returning to work when they didn’t want to. Although they could have managed on one income, they couldn’t afford to buy themselves out of their maternity package. For some it would have meant paying back £9,000 – £10,000!

    Whilst my maternity package was the minimum my employer could get away with, it’s one advantage was that if I’d wanted to leave at the end of it, I could and there were no nasty surprises.

  3. I firmly believe that maternity packages and how you prepare for your return to work are crucial. Working mums still want to be effective, respected employees. I am a full-time working mum in a senior management role and I think it’s important that employers nurture their staff, if only to improve retention. I was lucky that my employer was happy to help with my transition back into work after my maternity period. Thanks for an informative post.

  4. Interesting! I work in the public sector so got a pretty generous maternity leave/pay package. My organization is really good about flexible working for parents as well – I feel lucky knowing that when I return to work in a few months, I’ll be able to balance my work and family life.

  5. This is a really good resource. Whilst it’s useful to have the policies set out is there any way to measure the compliance or uptake with those policies? It can be one thing to offer a great package but if parents experience pressure to not take the full allowance or face discrimination the policy may not be worth anything.

    For example I was surprised by the finding that law firms were leading the way as a recent Law Society of Scotland paper seemed to suggest the level of discrimination against female legal professionals was quite high and their career suffered following maternity leave.

    The EHRC also has some research on the differing perceptions of pregnancy / maternity treatment between employer and employee that may be of interest to your readers.

  6. What a great post, I believe that way to many companies pay lip service to parental leave giving little beyond the statutory entitlement. They could be true or it could be that parental leave is still shrouded in mystique, a fact shown by the figures this week showing a less than 1 percent uptake. I however was lucky enough to take two periods of shared parental leave before going into a part time role. All fully supported and encouraged by my company.

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