'Competition is fierce' | Longer paternity leave is the latest recruiting tool in the war for talent

Longer paternity leave is the latest recruiting tool in the war for talent

Major accounting firm Grant Thornton UK has announced it is tripling its paternity leave allowance in a bid to remain competitive in the war for talent.

The Big Four firm revealed a series of ‘market-leading' updates to its family leave policies, with the aim of giving more flexibility to employees with caring responsibilities as they adjust to welcoming new family members.

Amongst the changes being rolled out, Grant Thornton will increase the enhanced paternity pay it offers from two weeks to six weeks full pay (including statutory pay), marking the firm out as a leader amongst its peers in supporting a more balanced approach to childcare.

Other key updates, which will apply to people who are due to have children, including through adoption, from  January 1, 2023, include a reduction in length of service criteria for paternity, shared parental or maternity and adoption leave and increased enhanced pay for maternity and adoption leave. These are in addition to other support Grant Thornton offers its people, such as neonatal leave and unpaid family leave.

‘Competition is fierce’

Perry Burton, Head of People and Brand at Grant Thornton UK, said that the plan was put together based on feedback from staff, adding that the initiatives are set to play a key role in talent attraction and retention.

“We believe that creating an inclusive culture which reflects and supports the diverse needs of our people is of vital importance to the sustainable growth of our firm,” said Burton.

“Formulated with feedback from our people in mind, and with the objective of developing a market-leading range of family leave policies, these changes are a demonstrative investment in our people at a time when competition for talent is fierce.”

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Burton added: “These updates to our family leave policies collectively play a key role in attracting and retaining diverse talent and support our commitment to creating a flexible, inclusive culture which provides opportunities for everyone to reach their full potential.”

The announcement follows recent recognition of the firm as a leading family-friendly employer by Working Families, the national charity for working parents and carers. For the second year in a row, Grant Thornton also featured amongst the top ten in Working Families’ list of family-friendly employers.

Calls grow for improvements to paternity leave

Though Grant Thornton’s move is an internal decision, a recent CIPD report revealed that almost half of employers support extending statutory paternity leave and pay.

New data from the CIPD has found that almost half of organisations support extending statutory paternity/partner leave and pay, with 29% of those backing an extension to either six weeks or more.

In response, the CIPD is urging the Government to increase statutory paternity/partner leave to six weeks, either at or near the full rate of pay, to help families balance caring responsibilities and provide more financial support for working parents.

Currently, under statutory paternity leave, employees can choose to take either one or two consecutive weeks’ leave if they have been employed for at least 26 weeks. Statutory paternity pay for eligible employees is currently either £156.66 a week or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, surveyed 2,000 senior decision-makers and found that almost half (46%) of employers support extending statutory paternity/partner leave and pay. One-third (33%) of those believe this should be extended to four weeks, and 29% think it should be extended to either six weeks or more.

Most organisations (49%) have a paternity/partner leave policy which provides the current statutory leave entitlement and pay.

The findings also highlight that very few new parents are using shared parental leave; 85% of organisations say no new fathers/partners have taken up shared parental leave in the past two years. Shared parental leave allows a portion of maternity leave and pay to be shared with partners and was introduced in 2015 to give parents greater flexibility in how they care for their child.

CIPD also found that more than one-third (34%) of employers in England say the introduction of 30 hours free childcare per week for all three to four-year-olds in 2017 has made a positive impact on the number of women returning to work.

Additionally, more than half (56%) of employers in England believe the number of women with young children returning to work would improve further if the same level of free childcare was extended to children aged under two years old.

'Need for reform'

Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser at the CIPD, said: “We last explored organisational approaches to parental leave in 2016 and since then, surprisingly, very little has changed in employer practice. Our research suggests that shared parental leave in its current form isn’t working; take-up continues to be very low, and we have seen a downward trend since 2016.

“These survey findings reinforce our policy call to extend statutory paternity/partner leave and pay, which will help balance caring responsibilities, reflect the changing nature of modern families and provide much-needed financial support to working parents.

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“Extended paternity/partner leave can have emotional benefits for parents and children, as well as improving the gender pay gap, as it enables a more equal split of time out of work to care for children.”

In addition, the CIPD is calling on the Government to provide affordable childcare from the end of maternity leave and to make flexible working requests a day one right.

McCartney continued: “There is also a need for reform in current childcare and early years education provision. Taking these steps to extend statutory paternity/partner leave and enabling affordable childcare from the end of maternity leave will create more opportunities and flexibility for working parents, by allowing them to return to work earlier if they choose to.”

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