Publishing parental leave policies – what do you need to know?

By Anthony Wolny | 17th October 2018 | 9 min read

What are parental leave policies?

Essentially, parental leave policies detail the amount of maternity, paternity and shared parental leave that a business offers their employees. Such policies normally cover the eligibility criteria for leave, the duration of leave that will be offered, and what level of payment will be provided to those taking leave.

Has the law on parental leave changed?

Not yet, but it is certainly beginning to look like it will in the future. The proposed changes to the current parental leave laws are being spearheaded by the MP JP Swinson, an ardent campaigner for equality in the workplace, and the pioneer behind the call for all large firms to be completely transparent around their leave offerings and policies.

The former employment relations minister has tabled a bill that proposes all companies with more than 250 employees should make this information as transparent as possible, as well as ensuring that all parental leave policies are available to view online. She cited compelling research that cited up to 54,000 women in the UK lose their jobs every year as a result of pregnancy or maternity discrimination.

It is proposed that the information could be published alongside the data now required for gender pay gap reporting, and the suggested ethical pay gap reporting – meaning that candidates would not have to broach the subject of leave and pay with a potential employer at interview stage.

Why is the news on parental leave important?

With so many working parents of both sexes in the UK, and recent ONS statistics highlighting that the number of working mothers in the UK has soared by over 1 million in the last 20 years, anecdotal evidence from parents has shown that many do not feel confident about asking for information on parental leave when applying for a job or at interview stage.

With a heavy media and commercial focus on the continuing move towards equality in the workplace, jobs are now rarely just seen as a source of income, and the importance of further career development cannot be underestimated. Understanding what benefits are available, including the provision of maternity, paternity and shared parental leave, could well play a crucial part in levelling the playing field in terms of recruitment and progression, as well as serving to make employers with honest, transparent leave policies more attractive to potential employees.

Are businesses in favour of publishing parental leave policies?

It’s slightly too early to tell, but so far it is looking promising, as 10 high-profile UK businesses have already signed up to voluntarily share their parental leave offerings online. As with the gender pay gap reporting requirements, the proposed changes will only apply to larger companies (with 250 employees or more), so theoretically the burden of collating and publishing information would not be as great as it would for smaller businesses. Arguably, the larger a company is, the more likely they should be to have a more favourable policy around parental leave, and therefore they should not be reluctant to share this information publicly.

All UK companies are legally required to offer parental leave and pay, even if it is just at a statutory level, and there are many that offer enhanced levels of leave, but potential employees could be unaware that they even offer such benefits. Businesses could therefore look to any new regulations as an opportunity to promote their benefits to candidates, as well as to inspire conversation within their own boardrooms in order to drive change and progression.

Have any big companies agreed to publish their policies?

So far, ten high-profile UK businesses have spoken out about their intentions to publish their parental leave and pay policies online. Jessica Chu, head of inclusion at Santander, said that advertising policies “really lets potential employees choose who they want to work with, and see the benefits that are on offer for them.”

The ten companies who have so far agreed to publish are:

  • Accenture
  • Santander
  • Deloitte
  • Direct Line Group
  • KPMG
  • RBS
  • PwC
  • Linklaters
  • EY
  • Addleshaw Goddard