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In Autumn 2018 some of the UKs most prominent businesses published their parental leave policies online for public consumption.
In September 2018 ten of the UK’s best-known businesses agreed to publish their parental leave and pay policies online. This was in response to a drive by MP Jo Swinson, who wants all major employers to be transparent about their approach to families and leave. She called for all organisations that employ 250+ people to make this information accessible.
Swinson, who is deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, was motivated by research that suggest more than 50,000 women have lost their jobs having started a family.
And it’s not just mothers that are discriminated against. It’s impossible to quantify how many dads are turned down for roles once it becomes obvious that they have a young family.
This is a big issue for parents, who feel that they shouldn’t ask family-related questions in an interview for fear of it jeopardising their chance of getting the role. Yet if a company’s policies are less family-friendly, this is an important factor in whether an employee decides to join them.
The first 10 organisations to publish their policies include Accenture, KPMG, Direct Line Group and Santander – but little action has been noted since. Consumer PR agency Hope & Glory followed in December, but there seems to be a lack of onward momentum.
The good news, however, is that the plans are progressing through parliament. The Bill received its first reading at the House of Commons in June 2018 and will be read for a second time early in 2019.
There is still a way to go, however – passing a bill is an 11-stage process involving the House of Commons, House of Lords and ultimately, Royal Assent.
If it does gain approval, working families stand to benefit. The more open that companies are about their policies, the more they can be compared and discussed. Employers recognise that they need to compete with other companies to secure talented, committed people, and so standards and entitlements will rise.
Transparency will benefit both companies and employers alike. Better pay and more flexible working practices will mean fewer exhausted parents returning to work too soon, affecting their professional reputations and affecting company performance.
In addition, being more accepting generally is good for business. Most organisations are beginning to realise that the greater the diversity in their workforce, the better their performance. That means beating discrimination: welcoming and retaining people of all ages, all backgrounds, all ethnicities and all home life situations.
Added to that is the benefit of creating good employee wellbeing. Forward thinking companies treat employees well, recognising that people who feel valued repay their investment by being loyal and going the extra mile in their work.
The 10 large companies that pledged to share parental policies and pay information are:
No matter how the Bill progresses in the coming months, it’s worth keeping the momentum going on this issue. If you work for a good employer, encourage the HR team to share its policies online, and urge partners and suppliers to do the same. Equality at work is in everyone’s interests.