Employee Engagement

Ten big-name businesses have agreed to publish parental leave and pay policies online. It means people will not have to ask for the information when they apply or go for a job interview.

The change has been driven by MP Jo Swinson, who wants all big firms to be transparent on leave policies. She is calling for all companies employing more than 250 people to have to make this information easily available.

Matt Turner has two young sons. Knowing that Santander would give him four weeks full paternity pay made him stay with the business. He thinks that it’s important to be up-front about these policies.

“Jobs are not seen as just a source of income,” he said. “People are interested in what benefits are available, too.”

Matt said it’s not easy to feel confident to ask about parental leave when applying for a job or in an interview – and that information needs to be available to would-be mums and dads.

Santander is one of ten UK firms to have signed up to publish policies on pay and leave.

Jessica Chu, who heads up inclusion at the bank, wants to see other firms do the same: “It really lets potential employees choose who they want to work with and see the benefits that are on offer for them.”

Accountancy firm PwC has signed up too – and said the move marked another step towards levelling the playing field when it comes to recruitment and progression.

“We’re working hard to create a culture where parents feel supported and different ways of working are celebrated,” said Laura Hinton, PwC chief people officer, adding that the firm want dads to feel as comfortable as mums when it comes to requesting information.

Marketing opportunity

Ms Swinson, who is deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, thinks there’s no excuse for firms not putting this information online.

“Companies all have to have a parental pay and leave policy, even if it’s as simple as statutory, but there are many offering more,” she said.

“It’s an opportunity for businesses to sell themselves.”

Ms Swinson is motivated by data that shows over 50,000 women have lost their job when they start a family.

“I think this would lead to more questions being asked in board rooms and in local cafes about who has the better policy and that itself will drive progress.” She believes this information should be published alongside gender pay gap data each year.

The idea gets the thumbs up from Helen Bryce, who runs recruitment business Guilty Mothers Club, that supports working parents.

She said that parents have told her about companies that view children as an “inconvenience.”

“You would always have in the back of your mind that this was the reason you did not get a job,” she said. “Would I ask about this in an interview? Absolutely not.”

Helen said this caused women’s careers to stagnate: “It’s easier to get back into the same job and work flexibly than it is to seek out new opportunities”

Workplace discrimination when pregnant is covered by the Equalities Act (2010) but it is tricky to prove discrimination when applying for jobs and considering starting a family.

A recent Equalities and Human Rights Commission survey found it was common for companies to ask about family plans and that this kind of discrimination has increased ‘significantly’ over the last decade or so.

Business group the CBI welcomed firms taking proactive steps.

“Companies that place inclusion at the heart of their business are more engaged, competitive and productive,” said Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director.

“Voluntary action of this kind can only be positive and we’d encourage firms to make this information publically available.”

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