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M&S doubles parental leave and increases pay

M&S has doubled its maternity and adoption leave, and has increased paternity leave to six weeks

M&S has enhanced its parental leave policy and launched a new retail pay offer.

The retailer has committed to investing £5 million annually in its maternity, paternity and adoption policies.

This doubles its maternity and adoption leave to 26 weeks and increases its paternity leave from two to six weeks, at full pay.

It has also invested £89 million in its retail pay offer, meaning around 40,000 customer assistants in the UK will receive £12 per hour, up from £10.90.

People working in London are set to earn £13.15, up from £12.05, which means that every UK store employee will be paid the real living wage as their base pay.

Read more: Employers fail to meet increased demand for financial support, research reveals

Sarah Findlater, HR director at M&S, told HR magazine that the policy is designed to make the company most attractive to retail workers.

She said: “We want M&S to be the best place to work in retail and where colleagues can be their best and are fairly recognised for the brilliant job they do with a strong reward and family leave package.

“It’s important to us that we support colleagues in the here and now and that means providing an hourly pay that’s competitive and reflective of today’s living costs.”

She added that the changes updated the firm's previous parental leave policy, which was updated in 2022 to introduce new flexible working offers, which has improved options for 3,000 retail managers to have a better work/life balance.

M&S also launched a dedicated fertility treatment policy in 2022, to give employees up to 10 days of leave for attending fertility appointments.

Findlater continued: “We’re always looking at how we can do more to support our colleagues when life changes outside of work too. It was clear that our maternity, paternity and adoption policies were not where they needed to be.

“This substantial investment means new and adoptive parents will soon benefit from industry-leading leave, giving them valuable time to spend with their growing family at an incredibly important and life-changing time.”

Kate Palmer, employment services director at Peninsula, told HR magazine that these changes will make a difference to the lives of working parents.

She said: “These changes come at a time when the government is making several family-friendly legal changes, for example, increasing the flexibility of paternity leave.

“However these go further than the statutory provisions.

“Employees at M&S who will benefit from the pay increase will be in a better position to that which they were in before.”

Read more: UK workers want longer paternity leave

The changes from M&S come amid increased demand for employers to support working parents.

Research by the insurer QBE this month revealed that working fathers want seven weeks of paternity leave, while a survey by REC Parenting revealed just 14% of parents feel supported by their benefits package.

Palmer added that offering enhanced parental leave would make employees feel more valued.

She continued: “Employees may feel more valued as well as benefiting on a practical level, which might help the business both to retain current staff and to attract candidates to fill any staff shortages.”

There have also been demands for employers to offer increased support amid the cost of living crisis, with employee discount scheme provider Reward Gateway finding that 65% of employees say that their employer could do more.