Being a family-friendly employer that goes beyond the statutory provisions can bring a host of benefits, including improving recruitment and retention, increasing employee engagement and productivity, promoting gender equality, and helping staff to achieve a better work-life balance. We round up five of the best ways for employers to enhance their family-friendly leave and pay.
1. Give more than two weeks’ paternity leave
Many organisations find that employees request annual leave in addition to – or instead of – paternity leave. Under the statutory provisions is either one week or two consecutive weeks.
Offering fathers or partners more than the statutory two weeks off can help them to have the time that they need with their new family without leaving them short of holiday for the rest of the year.
Another approach is to give employees additional flexibility around how the leave is taken, for example allowing them to take the two weeks separately, or as single days, to suit their needs.
Organisations could also consider offering paternity leave without specifying that employees must have the minimum length of service needed under the statutory requirements.
2. Enhance paternity pay
Statutory paternity pay is paid at a weekly flat rate. For many employees, this is a significant reduction in pay just at a time when their outgoings are likely to be increasing.
Employers can help to remove this financial barrier to taking paternity leave by providing some, or all, of the leave at full pay, helping employees to balance their work and family commitments at the start of their child’s life.
The organisation could make this enhanced pay available to all employees, including those who do not qualify for statutory paternity pay, to demonstrate its support for all new fathers and partners who want to take time off.
3. Go beyond statutory maternity pay
Pregnant employees have the right to take 52 weeks’ maternity leave. The period of statutory maternity pay covers 39 weeks, the first six weeks of which is payable at 90% of average weekly earnings. After the initial six-week period, statutory maternity pay drops to a flat rate.
It is common for employers to offer maternity pay that is above the statutory level – but the extent of this enhancement varies widely. Enhancements can range from topping up to full pay for all or part of the initial six-week period, to paying an employee their full salary for six months or more.
Providing generous maternity pay can boost recruitment and retention of female employees, particularly when combined with other benefits such as coaching and mentoring support for maternity returners and offering a phased return to work.
4. Offer paid time off for partners to go to antenatal appointments
All employees are entitled to take time off to accompany a pregnant woman with whom they are having a child at up to two antenatal appointments, but this time is unpaid.
Enabling employees to attend these appointments without loss of pay may encourage them to take time off for these important steps in the journey towards parenthood, and signal from the outset that the employer supports working parents.
The employer could offer time off for more than two antenatal appointments. Some employers may also offer staff paid time off for adoption appointments.
5. Rethink your shared parental leave and pay offering
Premature births and pregnancy loss
Problems with the current statutory arrangements for shared parental leave and pay have been highlighted since the scheme was introduced in 2015. These include complicated qualifying criteria, the low level of statutory pay, and a lack of awareness of the existence of shared parental leave among employees.
This has resulted in low levels of take-up – it has been estimated that just 2% of eligible couples used shared parental leave in 2020.
To encourage more employees to consider this option, organisations could introduce a standalone right to a period of paid parental leave regardless of the employee’s gender or family circumstances, demonstrating support for working families of all kinds.
Another approach is to enhance shared parental pay in line with the employer’s maternity pay offering.