Equal Parental Leave is live!

Gemma Jackson, RSA's UK&I Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, shares why RSA enhanced its parental leave offering.

7 March 2024

Family in kitchen with baby eating a snack of sliced carrots

Back in November, we introduced our new Equal Parental Leave policy which has now launched.

We chatted to Gemma Jackson (UK&I Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) who is here to share more…

What motivated you to enhance our parental leave offering?

"Childcare is the most common form of caring responsibility for working carers in the UK (72%), and parental leave policies are highly unequal which has huge implications for gender equity.

"Unequal parental leave is a key structural barrier to closing the gender pay gap. To address this, we wanted to enhance and equalise our parental leave offering to re-balance the burden of care and better support working parents, or those who hope to become parents in the future.

"Equal parental leave enables and encourages all parents, regardless of gender, to take time out to care for their child. It also sets a precedent for more equal sharing of childcare going forward.

"Last year, we set out our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy, declaring our ambition to lead in our sector by 2026 and across wider markets by 2030. To do that authentically, we have to take bold action."

Were there any challenges or barriers along the way?

"Whilst I wouldn’t say this process was easy, it certainly wasn’t as difficult as I had expected it to be. Using internal and external expertise to shape our offering, we were able to come up with a concept that was unanimously supported by our Executive team.

"In all honesty, I see the greatest challenge ahead of us, one which I hope to be pleasantly surprised by. Breaking away from traditional workplace norms requires a cultural shift.

"Normalising parents of all genders taking time out of work to care for their new families reduces bias and gender-based stereotypes. But it’s not something we are used to. I don’t expect take up to happen overnight, but I am confident this will increase over time.

"I also want to shout out what a huge collaboration effort this was across the business, from the Executive Team to Finance, but most prominently to our Policy and Pay specialists: Helen Clark, Nicki Cocklin and Lou Quirk. They worked with me all the way and I’d like to send my sincere thanks to everyone involved in delivering something that will make such a difference to people's lives. It makes me very proud to work for RSA."

Why did we choose to adopt Equal Parental Leave when we had Shared Parental Leave?

"Shared Parental Leave (SPL) works slightly differently to a fully-paid offering, on the basis that the maternity leave taker shares leave with their partner to enable them to take more than their standard paternity provision. It requires parents to make a trade off as to who will take the leave (bulk of SPL often low or unpaid) and for the person taking maternity leave to forfeit some of their leave. As a result, take up is low (<4% in UK) so this is unlikely to meaningfully re-balance parental policies and the gender imbalance of care. It is also highly complex to administer, and hard for parents to understand.

"Equal Parental Leave offers all parents the same parental leave and pay with no distinction of maternity and paternity leave (i.e. primary vs secondary care giver). It incentivises all parents to take time off to care, helping to tackle the gender pay gap head-on by re-balancing care responsibilities."

Now it is set up, what do you hope to see and why?

"I hope to see it being adopted across the board. That it supports us in fostering a culture of inclusion, that it strengthens familial bonds in those early months and enables us to tackle systemic inequalities aligned to gender. Removing barriers to progression and de-stigmatising caring responsibilities as being the responsibility of women.

"Additionally, I hope this addition to our strong colleague policy offering (especially around parenting journeys) will be something that helps us to attract and retain top talent."

The facts:

EntitlementUp to 52 weeks leave, of which 26 are fully paid
Qualifying period6 months service
InclusionAll parents, regardless of gender (including birth, adoption, surrogacy)
EligibilityApplies to full and part time employees at all levels

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