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Zurich introduces paid ‘lockdown leave’ for parents and carers in UK

Responding to the national lockdown and school closures in the UK, insurance firm Zurich has introduced an extra 10 days paid leave to help parents and carers balance their responsibilities with work.

The additional leave is expected to benefit more than one in five of the company’s 4,500 UK employees with children, and gives people the option to take days individually or consecutively throughout the time schools are closed.

Though the option of flexible hours is already offered widely to employees, Zurich head of HR Steve Collinson said that he realised this may not be enough for some.

He said: “With schools closed, working parents will be frantically trying to juggle their jobs and childcare responsibilities.

“We’re helping our employees get through this crisis by offering mums and dads paid time off so they can look after their health and their family. This is also available for anyone with other caring commitments.”

Speaking to HR magazine, Collinson added that the move was a question of values rather than cost.

He said: “It’s a simple step that takes pressure off our people at a tough time. We have a strong relationship with our teams and we know and trust them to take up this leave as appropriate.

“In return, their loyalty and commitment to our business pays off in the long term. Overall, we will manage any short-term productivity challenges as we always do, as a team.”

Zurich’s move to support working parents follows the Trades Union Congress (TUC) campaign urging employers to furlough any members of staff that have been affected by the school closures.

As the nation entered a third national lockdown, other organisations called on HR to think about alternatives they could provide if unable or unwilling to furlough staff.

When asked what other companies would need to consider if they were hoping to implement a plan similar to the one at Zurich, Collinson said: “Everyone has to do what they think is right for their business, but applying long-term thinking to this situation is critical.”

To improve HR’s long-term planning capacity, the CIPD also recently called on government to extend the furlough scheme to June this year.