Talent war boosts maternity and parental leave packages

A majority (79%) of employers now offer enhanced maternity pay, compared with 57% in 2017, according to a new poll.

This increase (22%) is matched by a rise in the number of companies offering enhanced paternity or partner leave pay, up by 23%.

The figures come from a poll of almost 700 organisations by childcare provider Bright Horizons.

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Some firms now offer more than 26 weeks’ paid parental leave to mothers and fathers, as the economy emerges from the COVID crisis, and companies strive to retain top staff.

Sophie Forrest of ForrestHR, told HR magazine: “To attract and retain the best talent, companies will increasingly need to offer better packages that support employees’ work-life balance holistically. Providing enhanced maternity and paternity leave beyond statutory minimums is an obvious strategy within a rounded package.

“Not only will this help you attract the best candidates, it’s also likely to foster loyalty among your staff, reducing churn and the high costs of recruiting and training new staff.”

The rise of enhanced maternity and paternity packages was not, however, spread equally among sectors. 

Financial service companies and legal firms were among the top respondents for increased maternity pay and shared parental leave.

Not only is enhanced pay expected in these sectors, but a package of less than 26 weeks’ full pay can look low by sector norms, said Jennifer Liston-Smith, head of thought leadership at Bright Horizons.

At the other end of the scale, sectors such as industrial and manufacturing offer enhanced maternity pay comparatively rarely (54% of the time); the same goes for healthcare (56%) and hospitality, travel, and leisure (66%).

Companies that offered paternity pay and shared parental leave were also much rarer in these sectors.

“Enabling a well-supported leave and confident re-entry is one key piece in retaining talent, mitigating the gender pay gap, and fixing the talent pipeline leak,” added Liston-Smith.

Steve Collinson, head of the UK people team at Zurich, said that enhanced and equalised parental leave packages can be a cost-effective approach to retaining talent.

Research commissioned by Zurich showed a quarter (26%) of fathers put their careers on the back burner when starting their families. Equalised parental leave packages, said Collinson, have had a big effect on employee satisfaction.

“Recruitment can be far more expensive. Any cost incurred from offering an equalised maternity policy for all parents is outweighed, as people tend to stay with an employer for longer.”

He added: “We also believe that equalised maternity/paternity leave policies have the potential to make an impact on inclusion. Where they are offered, they enable more women to return to work and progress with their careers, as their partners can afford to take time out and be at home with children.”