Kim Field: Employers must go above and beyond with inclusive benefits for carers

kim field

There is no doubt that maternity leave has progressed. Employed new mothers can take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay. However, polices around paternity leave are lagging, with fathers and same-sex partners only able to take two weeks of leave. This archaic view leaves couples with an unfair balancing act when it comes to childcare.

Policy-makers and regulators, while having the best intentions, tend to move slowly when it comes to acting and putting new laws in place; it, therefore, falls to businesses to be proactive in their attitudes towards parental leave and address this balance.

At Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), we are proud to announce the enhancement of our paid parental leave policy, allowing new parents to benefit from 26 weeks of paid leave, an increase of 24 weeks for fathers and 8 weeks for mothers.

As a mother of a five- and two-year-old, I believe new parents should be allowed the flexibility required to properly support a newborn child and handle the pressures it may entail. Moreover, if the policy had been in place when my husband and I became parents for the first time, it would have dramatically reduced the amount of pressure I felt under to do the right thing for both my family and career.

So, not only will this help address the gender balance when it comes to paid parental leave, but it supports women who are taking a full year out of work to ensure they are happy and confident to return.

This benefit is all about choice, giving mothers and fathers the choice about how much time to take off together and when to return to work, all while having full support from a global technology company. Feedback has already been incredibly positive; several colleagues have approached me to suggest that the ‘Work That Fits Your Life’ programme is nothing less than life-changing.

Intrinsically linked to this is the issue of flexible working; the modern employee has evolved, wanting the flexibility to work when and where suits them. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to the term, with many employers seeing it as a synonym for ‘part time’. This is an extremely outdated view, and businesses must adapt their policies if they are to retain an engaged workforce and place more value on employee care.

At HPE, we have also put in place a flexible work arrangement policy that offers new parents the opportunity to work part time for up to 36 months after the birth or adoption of a child.

Policies such as these not only provide new mothers with an encouraging and supportive environment, but can also help improve employee morale more broadly by enhancing their work-life balance and reducing work-related stress. In the long term, this helps us retain female talent, which helps us continue to work in a diverse and thriving workplace.

As an example of a working mother, I am now able to take control and manage my assignments with flexibility, working around me and my children’s schedule.

Businesses and policymakers must do more to keep up with the changing workplace dynamic, and the demands of the modern employee. Through focusing on wellbeing, HPE is passionate about leading the way in the UK by providing working environments where staff can truly develop and thrive.

I strongly encourage other businesses to review their policies and go above and beyond UK law, to ensure that, when it comes to championing exceptional employee care, UK business leads the way.

Kim Field is UKI HR director at Hewlett Packard Enterprise