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Over half of UK employers now provide enhanced maternity and paternity pay

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Nearly two thirds (63.5%) of businesses offer maternity pay above the statuary minimum in the UK, and three-fifths (60.8%) offer enhanced paternity pay.

The findings, from a report by XpertHR, show encouraging signs that employers are taking support for their working parents more seriously.

Full pay for more than six weeks followed by the standard statutory maternity pay rate was one of the most common ways (favoured by 42.4%) employers had enhanced pay.

Financial incentives or other benefits were also offered by 45.9% of businesses to help when returning from maternity leave, an added bonus more common (rising to 59.1%) in organisations of 1,000 or more employees.

Kirstie Axtens, head of employer services at Working Families, said the results echo those found by her organisation in its annual 
benchmark of flexible and family-friendly policies and practices.

Speaking to HR magazine, Axtens said: "More than 85% of Working Families employer members enhance maternity pay and over 90% enhance paternity pay. Additionally, 79% enhance SPL to match their maternity provision.

"Employers tell us they find the benefits boost engagement, employee wellbeing, recruitment and retention outweigh the additional costs."

Positive progress on parental benefits is especially promising when considering the challenges many families have faced working through the pandemic.

At the outbreak of coronavirus, childcare was labelled the leading cause of stress by people working from home.

A survey from childcare support app Bubble also found that the majority of parents asked said their childcare needs had changed due to the pandemic and they needed more support from their employer.

Nearly a third (31.7%) of organisations in XpertHR’s survey do not offer any enhanced maternity, paternity, or shared parental pay, citing cost and company culture as the cause.

Shelia Attwood, managing editor, pay and HR practice, at XpertHR said there is still some way to go on enhanced parental support.

Speaking to HR magazine she said: "Whilst some organisations report more partners taking extended leave, others feel there is still some way to go in encouraging all employees to take time off around the birth of a child. Several highlight the importance of both parents being able to choose what time off they would like to take, as well as the opportunity for the mother to return to work sooner.

"Alongside other initiatives, such as coaching and mentoring for returning parents, this shows that organisations are demonstrating a growing culture of support for working parents.”

Figures are based on a survey of 375 organisations, employing almost one million staff. Organisations provided responses in February and March 2021.