Replacing maternity & paternity with parental leave

A friend of mine recently went to his head of HR to arrange shared parental leave. They had no clue how the process worked, asked him how he was going to cover the work, and warned that it might not be possible. My friend had to calmly point out that this was in fact their problem, not his – and that he was legally entited to take his leave regardless.

So it sadly came as little surprise when I learnt that shared parental leave take-up in the UK is around 2%. My friend and colleague Pat recently wrote about FundApp’s shift from maternity and paternity pay to a single combined paternity policy:

  • All new parents received 12 weeks of paid leave, regardless of gender, location, family structure or circumstances
  • The leave is flexible to take at any point in the first year following the child’s birth or adoption
  • All FundAppers are eligible globally with no minimum service requirements
  • Unlimited, paid time off for prenatal, medical or adoption appointments for both mums and dads
  • Flexible options for return to work

It’s well worth a read and I’m proud to be co-founder of a company where we try and do better. Many of the comments were interesting, with a few common themes that I thought I’d share here:

  • So what? 12 weeks isn’t particularly generous. This change is about building a workplace of inclusion and equality for all parents. We’re a 40-person bootstrapped company, so 12 weeks is what we can achieve at the moment. The aim is to increase that when we can.
  • What about after 12 weeks? Presumably this question was mainly from our US audience, but to be clear this is in addition to any statutory leave (up to 12 months in the UK for mothers).
  • What about more flexibility? The flexible options might seem loose because it is – almost everyone in our company works flexibly in some way. We have part-time team members, adjusted hours, adjusted days, working from home, sabbaticals etc. If that means staggering work, job-sharing, setting up remote arrangements, we do this now and would want to speak to our new parents about what will work best for them. 
  • Also, mentioning our pay gap. We have an hourly earnings gap. Many things have negatively influenced that over time. None are excuses. We are improving it and will keep doing so until it’s gone.
  • And a bunch of comments that prove we’re on the internet. “Nobody should bed paid for “time off” whether sick, vacationing, or parenting.”. “Absolutely idiotic rules…spoiling the work culture.

I’d love to hear how your own company is approaching this.

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