Enlightened businesses want to offer their employees attractive parental leave arrangements. Happily, this is now widely recognised to be ‘doing the right thing’. But whenever a company launches a progressive parental leave policy, we tend also to be told that this will be ‘good for business’.
Is it really? And if so, how?
Our experience at Aviva has shown us that, with the right strategies, family-friendly policies really can strengthen the workforce and lead to benefits for the business as a whole. Here are my 5 tips on how to make a progressive parental leave policy work for you:
- Think twice before arranging external cover
Using existing employees to cover for employees on parental leave should never be seen as a necessary evil – for the right employees, it’s an opportunity to develop their skill set and progress their careers. You just need to make sure it’s positioned as such.
Almost all of Aviva’s paternal leave vacancies have been filled by our own people. Doing this, of course, means saving on recruitment costs – but that’s by no means all. Pick the right people to fill the gaps and they will happily step up, enjoying the challenge this brings. In the long run, this also boosts retention and helps good people understand that they won’t be tied to a particular role, or be deprived of the stimulation that comes from trying something new.
- Never stop thinking about the customer
Yes, we’re talking about a policy that’s focused on your employees – but it’s important to consider how it might also impact your customers. Make sure service levels don’t dip.
At Aviva, in collaboration with our managers, we’ve closely monitored resourcing levels to ensure that there’s no change or detrimental impact on service levels. In addition, our managers and our people who are returning to work after taking their leave tell us how positive they are feeling, how they felt valued by Aviva and how this attitude redoubles their enthusiasm to deliver great customer experience.
- Be flexible if you operate globally
If your business operates in more than one country, where legislation and attitudes may vary, it can be difficult to implement a single parental leave policy. In an ideal world, you’d be able to offer universal access to the same high levels of parental leave – but realistically, this may not be possible.
At Aviva, our philosophy of greater equality for all employees made the development of global policy principles so much easier. We support all our people regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation. So whilst the terms of the policy may vary taking into consideration local legislation, Aviva is market leading in what we offer our people in each global market.
- Don't overthink admin
A new parental leave policy doesn’t have to mean new systems or HR processes. To keep the burden of administration to a minimum, adapt existing systems and reporting metrics rather than starting from scratch. By doing this, Aviva kept the financial impact down, implementing nothing more than a few minor changes to our HR system.
- Never neglect the monitoring
Unless you keep track of where you started and where you want to go, you won’t know if your new parental leave policy is successful.
It’s important to monitor the way employees work – and their career paths – before and after taking parental leave. The key indicators you produce will give you continuous updates on the effectiveness of your policy. By demonstrating that it works for the business, as well as its employees, you’ll build a strong case for maintaining and building on the success of a family-friendly approach to business.
Anthony Fitzpatrick is the business’s Employee Relations and Global Policy Lead. An expert in employment policy, he is a passionate advocate of the use of strong corporate values to drive cultural change and boost employee engagement.
Anthony was deeply involved in the launch of the business’s equal parental leave policy in November 2017, and has spent the last year closely tracking the results.