Hachette UK has announced it is equalising shared parental leave for all employees who choose it - becoming one of just a few firms to do so.
The change means both parents will be able to take 20 weeks of fully-paid leave at any point in the 37-week eligibility period.
HR director Melanie Tansey announced the news in an email to staff. It follows calls for the policy from its Gender Balance Network, chaired by Grace McCrum and Katie Horrocks, as a way to help narrow the gender pay gap.
Tansey said the leave could be taken all in one go or in blocks, while parents could choose to be off work together or stagger the leave and pay.
She said: “We believe that equalising the entitlement to SPL pay is a major step forward in tackling society’s preconceptions of the role of women as the primary carer by levelling the playing field at work and removing any barriers to career progression created by periods of absence. It is for every family to decide what arrangements best suit them.
“We are one of only a handful of companies in the UK to equalise maternity pay and SPL pay. The vast majority of companies offer statutory pay only for fathers or second adopters. We are proud to be a leader in this area and to be Changing the Story.”
Tansey also announced a number of other changes including making all jobs available to part-time working, job sharing, flexible hours with, in most cases, a blend of office and home working. The move, which follows a trial in January, will also abolish the previous six-month period before employees can apply for flexible working.
McCrum and Horrocks told The Bookseller: “In the UK take-up of shared parental leave is thought to be as low as 2%. It is for the government to address the issue nationally, but it is heartening to see more and more companies take it upon themselves to make positive changes to their policies and culture, in the knowledge that the ultimate benefit to businesses and to employees is so significant.
“The Gender Balance Network at Hachette, which is built on the concept that everyone needs to work together for a more equal workplace, has been talking to the senior leadership and the Changing the Story teams since January to improve our flexible working culture and our shared parental leave offering. It has been fantastic to be part of a truly collaborative process and it’s encouraging to see that the work of the network can lead to such positive change.
“It is clear from speaking to network members across the company that caring and parenting responsibilities are a key contributor to the gender pay gap, and we hope that making these changes to shared parental leave, and to offering flexible working in all roles from day one, will make a significant difference to ensuring that everyone can achieve a work/life balance that works for them and for their family. By removing any criteria or preconceptions that parental leave is only for mothers or flexible working is only for working parents we can ensure that everyone benefits from these positive changes. We’re always aware that there is a lot more to be done but we also want to celebrate real policy change, across the industry.”
The announcement has been widely praised by Hachette employees on social media, including Quercus m.d. Jon Butler, who, in a lengthy Twitter thread, pointed to research showing women who have children are subject to a “childbirth penalty” that keeps the gender balance high.
Hachette’s move follows PRH’s announcement in July that all new parents will be given the opportunity to take 12 months off from 1st January 2020. The arrangements will see all employees offered an equal amount of paid and unpaid parental leave and is available to full-time and part-time workers across every level of the company.
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