Your organisation is likely to have formal policies in place for Maternity and Adoption Leave, and you may also have something for Paternity Leave, Unpaid Parental Leave and Shared Parental Leave (SPL). However, it can be a good idea to review these policies regularly to ensure they are up to date, compliant and reflect the norms of your organisation. Furthermore, ensuring policies are transparent can serve to attract prospective employees as well as promoting retention.
These policies should cover the statutory entitlements, eligibility criteria, outline exactly what benefits are available and the processes which need to be followed by both the employee and employer.
Why is it important to support working fathers?
Why do you need parenting policies?
Formal parenting policies clearly outline what leave and pay options are available to parents and how to apply for them. They are also an important way to show that the organisation supports parents. As discussed throughout this Toolkit, fathers in particular often feel nervous about asking for the use of policies such as flexible working and leave, especially longer periods of leave under SPL. As such, a well written Unpaid Parental Leave, Paternity Leave or SPL policy demonstrates that organisations are serious about supporting leave for mothers and fathers. Before publishing any policies, it is always advisable to have legal experts check the policies.
You can help by ensuring the policy is visible on the company intranet and actively promote the policies using posters and other communications. Furthermore, providing line managers and HR with appropriate training so that they are aware of the policies is also important.
It’s a good idea for companies to monitor returner and retention rates to track whether these family-friendly policies are working in practice and being used in a non-discriminatory way.
Things to include
A good way to begin a policy is to outline the organisation’s perspective and approach to parents in the workplace. For example:
“[NAME OF COMPANY] is committed to supporting parents of all types. Whether you have a partner or are a sole parent, whatever your gender identity or sexual orientation, and regardless of the age and needs of your child, [NAME OF COMPANY] understand that parents need support from their workplace. Staff should always feel comfortable in asking for information about policies that may help them with their caring responsibilities, and [NAME OF COMPANY] will consider any requests.”
Ensure that the policy is written in such a way as to be clear and accessible to all employees not just HR. Be aware that for new and prospective parents, this may be their first exposure to using any kind of flexible working or leave policy. So be clear on what to avoid:
- Avoid jargon
- Avoid acronyms
- Avoid being overly lengthy.
Ensure that the policy document is aligned with the company culture and ethos. Encourage readers to speak to HR / line managers about anything included within the policy that are unclear. With SPL in particular, the policy can feel new and confusing to some employees, so it can be useful to use example with different types of scenarios and flow charts to avoid confusion.
The statutory position with these policies is subject to change, and you should regularly review all policies to ensure that they are in accordance with the latest legal requirements.
Links to the latest advice are available here:
- Maternity Leave and Pay
- Adoption Leave and Pay
- Shared Parental Leave and Pay
- Paternity Leave and Pay
- Unpaid Parental Leave
- Flexible Working
SPL can be used in multiple ways by parents due to its flexibility allowing them to be off caring together, separately or in blocks. As such, SPL can be highly advantageous for families but can cause confusion for an employee unless the policy is presented to them in a format which is easy to follow. ACAS have produced a useful series of documents that may aid you in developing this policy, including a good practice guide for employers and employees. The ACAS documentation can be found here.
In order to cover the statutory requirements of Paternity, Adoption Leave, Parental Leave, SPL you will need to explain the following areas:
- Eligibility conditions for entitlement to Leave and Pay, including giving the correct notice.
- Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP)
- Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)
- Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)
- Unpaid Parental Leave
- Availability of time off for antenatal appointments (Paternity leave or SPL)/ adoption appointments (adoption leave) prior to the arrival of the child.
- Duration of leave available in weeks and level(s) of pay available.
- Specifics of how leave can be taken – whether it has to be taken in one block (period of leave before returning to work); whether it needs to be taken soon after birth/adoption; whether it can be taken in multiple blocks (periods of leave before returning to work and then going on leave again) as is possible in the case of Shared Parental Leave; whether it be taken simultaneously with a partner, and so on.
- Whether your organisation offers any enhancements to leave and pay. If your organisation does, this is something you should make clear both in the policy and in the communications systems you have around the policy. This policy might facilitate recruitment as it may be something that future employees consider when applying to organisations. The policy may also help with retention.
- Employment rights during leave, including SPliT days (an SPL term similar to ‘Keep in Touch Days’), right to return to previous role ((including protection in possible redundancy situations or the right to be offered a suitable vacancy) and terms and conditions etc
- Reference any processes for return and flexible working policies the organisation may offer.
Enhancing your policies
As well as providing the statutory minimum entitlement in their policies, many organisations enhance their offer to employees. For instance, the organisation might offer a number of weeks of Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) at full pay, some even offer the same level of ShPP as Maternity Pay as a way of promoting equality across the organisation. Another option is offering Paternity Pay for two weeks or more at full pay and this is becoming much more common. Additionally, some companies offer paid Parental Leave or Dependants Leave to parents who may be caring for a disable child, children needing hospital treatment or for a number of other family and childcare reasons. Enhancing policies in this way can send a message that the organisation is supportive of parents and families and can significantly support recruitment and retention processes. Such policies may take time to embed and will be most successful with strong backing from Senior Managers from across the organisation.
Enhancing policies beyond the statutory entitlement may lead to some additional costs for the organisation, and as such a business case may need to be built to secure senior management and board buy-in. Research undertaken for the Equal Parenting Project suggests that organisations should carefully consider the possibility of enhancing their SPL/Paternity Leave and other policies for fathers and adoptive parents, and have produced a document to help build a business case to do so.
You can find all of the materials mentioned in this and all other modules here.