In April 2018, financial services comparison website GoCompare introduced enhanced parental leave policies for its 240 Wales-based employees, enabling those taking maternity, shared parental or adoption leave to receive up to nine months at full pay, and those taking paternity leave to take four weeks at full pay.
A year on, the organisation has seen 100% of new fathers adopt the enhanced paternity leave policy, while all but one new mothers have increased the amount of leave they have taken.
Alex Currie, HR director at GoCompare, says the organisation aims to move towards a culture in which staff actively choose which parent is best placed to be the primary care-giver, rather than simply going along gender lines.
Part of this journey is about communication, Currie explains: “As soon as we’re informed [that an employee] is expecting, or is going to be adopting, we talk them through all of the policies. If they’re going to take paternity leave, for example, we’ll sit down and talk them through the shared parental leave policy, in case that’s something they haven’t considered. Even if they don’t change their mind, it’s important that they are fully informed.”
Currie also notes the importance of storytelling, which came into play when the first male employee took up shared parental leave with a view to becoming the principal care-giver.
“We talked to the rest of the organisation about why he was doing it and whether this was something they might be interested in as well,” says Currie. “If you’ve got individuals who are willing to talk or share their stories, it’s important to harness that, introduce it to the rest of the [workforce] in a way they can understand, and show that there are different ways of doing things.”
The fact remains, however, that parental responsibilities are more often taken up by women. With the additional pay included in the enhanced policies, Currie hopes that GoCompare will help tackle some of the financial gaps faced by women who take time out.
To then ensure that employees returning from parental leave are not disadvantaged in their career, GoCompare utilises a thorough onboarding process to make the process as seamless as possible.
The organisation also ensures that flexible working options are communicated to employees throughout the process of arranging, taking and returning from parental leave.
For example, a female employee recently chose to return after six months and work part-time, taking the non-working days as maternity leave. This allowed her to ease back into the world of work, while still prioritising her family.
“Sometimes women feel there’s a choice facing them: either they can be a mum and do that job well, or they can have a career and have to put family priorities on hold,” Currie explains. “We want to remove that thought process; they can take the time to be a primary care-giver, and there is a career waiting when they come back.”