How the CBI supports expectant parents

As a relatively small organisation which employs 250 people internationally, including 225 in the UK, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) prides itself on its curiosity when considering the introduction of new benefits. It seems natural for an organisation which promotes and celebrates UK businesses.

Millia Bosnjak, reward and benefit adviser at the CBI, says: “We are very open to what the market is producing: we have always been willing to jump onto pilots. We spend time with new starters and are keen to hear about what other organisations are doing. We are inquisitive and want to try new ideas.”

The CBI carefully considers its parental policies throughout the journey from pregnancy through to birth, parental leave and returning to work. It has flexible working policies which will help expectant parents who might need time off for sickness, for example.

Working with healthcare benefits platform Peppy – a relationship which started when Peppy was still in pilot mode – the CBI offers its employees career coaching which starts before parental leave and runs all the way through the process of returning to work. “It is around an 18-month programme, which helps people to get into the headspace of thinking through childcare needs, flexible working, and whether they will want to return to work full-time, part-time, et cetera,” says Bosnjak.

Employees with similar due dates are encouraged to connect through different Teams and WhatsApp groups.

When people have their babies, they can access Peppy’s services, from conversations with experts over its chat function to referrals for more specific help in areas like breastfeeding. “[Employees] get support when [they] need it at a critical time,” says Bosnjak, who used Peppy herself when her two-year-old was born.

Returning to work is often a big transition for new parents, and the CBI is no exception. “Looking at employees who took parental leave, 30% to 40% chose not to come back to work,” says Bosnjak. “Changing that was key for us: we wanted to make sure that people are not only going away with the right tools and information, but coming back, too.”

Introducing Peppy’s support is one way the CBI has sought to help to ease the transition, as is the coaching. Employees who are returning to work are also invited to meet with HR to discuss their plans, and the meeting covers the CBI’s flexible working policies, as well as looking at whether a change in working pattern would be appropriate. There’s also a mentoring scheme where someone who is just coming back from maternity leave is paired with another person who has made the transition.

Even pre-pandemic, the CBI was a flexible employer and understood the importance of factoring parental responsibilities into the working day, from the school and nursery run to flexibility when children are ill.

Once parents are back at work, they can also enjoy access to the CBI’s working parents’ network. People can share knowledge and support via an online forum, as well as participating in regular webinars.

As well as new mothers, the CBI tries to help new fathers and people who have arrived at parenthood in different ways. “Our policies also cover adoption and surrogacy; all the different routes to parenthood. We want to make sure that people are supported, whatever their circumstances,” says Bosnjak.