Investment group Standard Life Aberdeen is introducing one of the UK’s most generous parental leave policies, offering nine months of full pay for all new parents.
The new policy, which comes into force on 1 January 2020, will apply to all new mothers and fathers working for the company, including those who adopt or have a child through a surrogate.
Campaigners said the move was the sort of initiative that could help to close the country’s yawning gender pay gap, in which women are paid £260,000 less than men over their careers.
Fathers and same-sex parents working for Standard Life Aberdeen will be able to take a full nine months of paid leave, without having to ask their partner to cut their time short or share their entitlement.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the women’s campaign group the Fawcett Society, said it was a “potentially transformational” policy for Standard Life Aberdeen employees. “It is at the generous end of the spectrum and extremely rare.”
Rival insurer Aviva raised the bar in 2017 when it introduced equal parental leave for both parents and six months’ full pay, while management consultancy Accenture offers 36 weeks of fully paid maternity leave.
Between 180 and 200 Standard Life Aberdeen staff are expected to benefit from the policy next year. The company would not confirm how much the new programme would cost, but it is likely to be about £5m a year.
As of next year, new parents at Standard Life Aberdeen will be granted 52 weeks leave, 40 of which will be fully paid. Additional paid leave will be offered to parents whose child is born premature. Staff will also have the option of breaking their leave up into three separate periods over two years, and will be able to take advantage of the policy from their first day in the job.
Sophie Walker, chief executive of the Young Women’s Trust charity, said: “It’s especially encouraging to see that this is a day one right, as far too many parents are currently missing out on paid parental leave because they haven’t worked at their employer for long enough.
“If we’re ever going to close the gender pay gap and enable all parents to thrive in the workplace then it’s time for all employers to get serious about adopting parental leave and family-friendly policies which are fit for purpose.”
Smethers said: “The reality is that even a relatively modest additional period of paid leave for dads at work would make a real difference. Families need to be able to make unconstrained choices about who does the caring. For most parents that simply isn’t possible at the moment.”
Standard Life Aberdeen’s human resources chief, Rose Thomson, said: “Our new policy represents a potentially life-changing opportunity for new parents, whatever their family circumstances. We know that our people need to balance their work lives with their personal lives and this new policy is one example of the actions we’re taking to help them maintain that.”
Other generous parental policies across the UK include:
Aviva: 26 weeks of fully paid leave for both parents
UK civil service: 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave
Etsy: 26 weeks of fully paid leave for both parents
Accenture: 36 weeks of fully paid maternity leave
Transport for London: 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave
Source: Money Guru survey, January 2019