Enhanced Shared Parental Pay – A Case Study

Digital marketing and publishing company Genie Ventures talk about their award-winning policies, including enhanced Shared Parental Pay.

Genie Ventures


Cambridge-based digital marketing and publishing company Genie Ventures is a young, growing company which not only talks about a commitment to transparency, equality, innovation and personal development, but has the policies, including a generous enhanced Shared Parental Pay scheme, to prove it.

Set up in 2008 by managing director Ciaron Dunne and technical director Paul Goodwin, Genie Ventures, which won the 2017 Workingmums.co.uk’s Top Employer Award for larger SMEs,was initially focused on Broadband Genie, a comparison website that also helps consumers understand broadband.

Its biggest growth spurt began in 2015 and since then the company has grown 100% year on year. This has been largely thanks to its in-house digital marketing agency, Genie Goals. It has taken the cutting edge technology used to monetise its own websites and now helps some of the world’s leading retailers on an agency basis.

The business takes a long-term approach to recruitment, hiring people who are at the start of their digital marketing career and it has a very strong training programme,  the Genie Academy, which includes a wide variety of technical training. “The aim is to grow our own talent pipeline. It is a long term investment. It takes a year to get someone up to being a fully fledged account manager,” says Sarah Sutton, Head of People & Development at Genie Ventures.

Training is also offered on an ongoing basis to all members of staff and career development is one of the fundamental pillars of the business.

Training needs are identified through regular one to ones with managers and the company has built a pay structure which recognises training and development.


Genie Ventures also places a big emphasis on creative thinking. Twenty per cent of employees’ time is devoted to personal development and ideas, following the Google Objectives and Key Results model. The aim is to encourage innovation at all levels.

Genie Ventures’ gender split at the company is around 50/50, which is very good for a tech company. At senior management level it is around 60/40 weighted towards men and two out of the three directors are men [the men who founded the company]. Sutton says there is a strong interest in gender diversity from the top and an awareness that this needs to be safeguarded as it grows. A transparent pay structure aims to ensure everyone is on an equal footing when it comes to progression and pay.


Managers are trained in an understanding of the importance of equality and flexible working and staff flex their hours on a day to day basis, according to business need.  The business also has a set of core values or Genie Behaviours, six behaviours that are important for the kind of business it wants to be. These include respect for others.

An important aspect with regard to maintaining a culture of openness and trust is communication. Genie Ventures has its online Genie Journal – which is a cross between an internal Twitter and Facebook page. Different teams are on a rota for contributing larger articles and blogs on anything they deem of wider interest and there is also a space for videos, useful links, recipes and other information.

Parental leave

While Genie Ventures is still a fairly young business, Sutton says it may be on the precipice of a baby boom.

Those who take extended leave and their managers are given support to ease back to work. That might include a gradual return and also addressing any training needs they might have. New parents are buddied up with other parents if they want to be. “We treat them like we do new starters,” says Sutton.

Unusually for an SME, Genie Ventures enhances Shared Parental Pay. The first 12 weeks are paid at 100% pay and from week 13 to week 26 parents get 50% of pay. They get SMP from week 27 to week 39 and then the company pays them the equivalent of SMP until week 52. Sutton says she questioned her boss (the Managing Director) about the generosity of the scheme. His response speaks volumes. “He said that it was the right thing to do and that he would not have it any other way. He plays the long game. He knows that by treating people right he will keep them,” she says. “We are very proud that that attitude drives the company.”

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