Bright Horizons: Top Firms Ramp up Parental Leave Benefits in Battle for UK Talent

  • 79% of professional employers now offering enhanced maternity pay, vs 57% in 2017, according to survey of tier-one companies
  • Some firms now offering 26+ weeks paid parental to mothers and fathers, as economy emerges from Covid crisis and companies strive to retain top staff
  • Survey reveals fresh evidence of firms overhauling their hybrid working practices following Covid lockdowns
  • Paternity pay is increasing: 21% now enhance more than 2 weeks, up from 9% in 2019
  • But paternity support still lags behind maternity or shared parental leave, pointing to continued need for better recognition of gender equality and family time
  • Survey compiled by Bright Horizons, supplier of work and family solutions to UK corporates
  • Nearly 700 organisations gave input on their parental leave policies from sectors including Financial Services; Legal & Professional services; Digital; Technology & Telecoms; Engineering & Construction; and Hospitality, Travel & Leisure in the UK and Ireland

Leading companies in the UK and Ireland are dramatically escalating their parental leave benefits in the ongoing fight to recruit and retain top talent.

Parental leave benefits at top UK companies have dramatically improved since 2017, but there’s still a big gap between maternity and paternity leave, reveals landmark survey from Bright Horizons

Almost four-fifths (79%) of top-tier employers now enhance Maternity (and Adoption / Surrogacy) Leave pay beyond the statutory minimum, according to the Bright Horizons Parental Leave Benchmark, the most authoritative survey of its kind in the UK.

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This is an increase of 22 percentage points since a previous issue of the Benchmark in 2017 (57%). 67% of employers currently enhance Paternity or Partner Leave pay, compared with just 44% offering this in 2017. And those offering enhanced Shared Parental Leave pay have almost doubled in the past four years, from 25% in 2017 to 48% in 2021.

The most frequent enhancement of Maternity / Adoption pay is now 26 weeks’ full pay among sectors such as banking, professional services and technology. In sectors where talent retention is key and packages are at the top end, companies are coupling generous enhanced pay with programmes of coaching, childcare and other supports.

Employers cite a number of reasons for increasing the generosity of these offers, including a desire to encourage staff retention, post-leave career progression and satisfaction, and to reduce recruitment costs. The experience of lockdown has also prompted organisations to re-think ways of helping staff to balance their work and family lives.

Laura Moynihan, Senior HR Business Partner at Société Générale, said: “An important part of our benefits package is the 26 weeks of enhanced maternity adoption or surrogacy leave pay we offer, but this is just one part of the holistic approach we like to take. Welcoming parents back after they’ve been on leave and making sure their return is as positive as possible for everyone involved is a key priority for us.”

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Denise Priest, Director of Employer and Strategic Partnerships at Bright Horizons, said: “It’s no secret that ensuring more parents return to work after taking parental leave makes sense for businesses; it reduces recruitment costs and keeps valuable knowledge in the business. But the competition between companies has really stepped up in the past four years, as our research shows. Interestingly, the majority who offer enhanced paternity leave still offer just two weeks at full pay. However, 21% now offer more than this, compared to only 9% who offered more than two weeks in 2019. This could be a good area for companies looking to differentiate themselves from competitors and steal a march on talent.”

Chris Thevenot, Regional Head of HR at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, added: “We’re committed to supporting our employees no matter what stage of life they are at. So we have expanded our enhanced maternity, adoption or surrogacy leave pay as well as placing emphasis on leave for partners, including shared parental leave and paternity/partner leave. It is also important to us to ensure there are other supports for parents in place, like access to emergency childcare, as well as parental transition coaching and resources for them, and their managers, to help their return.”

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