The benefits of family-friendly policies

Employees are increasingly seeking out employers with family-friendly policies. Employment lawyers at Beecham Peacock spell out the benefits all round.

man and woman's feet standing next to empty baby shoes

 

Looking after employees is a fundamental part of running a successful business, ensuring staff turnover remains low and workers remain motivated. Workers now have more agency than ever when it comes to choosing their employer, in part thanks to the rise in remote working which means workers are no longer limited to looking for roles within their local area.

39% of UK workers now work at home within a given week and workers are beginning to demand more in terms of employee benefits, especially when it comes to welfare.

One of the areas where employees may focus is “family-friendly” working and benefits. But what does the law say about these contractual offerings? And how can a business – and its employees – benefit from having a comprehensive “family-friendly” benefits package? Here, employment law specialists Beecham Peacock offer an overview…

What does the law say about parental leave?

In the UK, women are able to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The first 26 weeks of leave, which includes two weeks of compulsory leave (four weeks for factory workers), are known as ordinary maternity leave, while the final 26 weeks are known as additional maternity leave.

During maternity leave, a woman’s rights to pay rises, accrued holiday, and returning to work are protected by the law.

Eligible mothers-to-be are entitled to be paid statutory maternity pay for 39 weeks. This will depend on whether or not they satisfy service and earnings criteria. Otherwise, they may not be able to claim maternity allowance.

Statutory maternity pay equates to six weeks paid at a rate of 90% of average weekly earnings (before tax). For the remaining 33 weeks, the current rate of payment is £172.48 or 90% of their average weekly earnings – whichever is lower. This rate is reviewed annually.

There has been much discussion about the mandatory amount of maternity pay and whether it does enough to support women in the workplace – a recent study found statutory maternity pay is just 47% of the national living wage. To attract and retain women, businesses may wish to consider offering enhanced maternity pay and benefits packages.

For partners, leave entitlements are different. Statutory paternity and adoption leave entitles fathers/partners to take one or two weeks of paid paternity leave, paid at a rate of £172.48 or 90% of their average weekly earnings – whichever is lower. This rate is also reviewed annually. When this leave is taken differs depending on whether paternity or adoption leave is being taken. Again, your employer may wish to consider enhanced leave and pay packages.

For eligible parents, another option that is increasingly taken up is shared parental leave. Whilst the mother will always have to take two weeks of compulsory leave (four weeks for factory workers), the remaining 50 weeks (or 48 weeks for factory workers) can be taken by either parent. This gives both parents flexibility and the opportunity to spend time with their child. Statutory parental leave pay is paid at the same rate as the latter part of statutory maternity or paternity pay, and can be paid for up to 37 weeks to eligible employees. Again, employers may wish to consider offering enhanced parental leave pay to attract and retain employees.

What are the positives of greater employee benefits around parental leave?

Of course, there are extra costs associated with paying more than the statutory pay requirement. However, offering parental leave options and policies that go above and beyond the minimum requirements can benefit a business just as much as it benefits employees. Such packages will enable business to attract and retain employees.

A comprehensive parental leave policy

Lisa Branker, Head of Employment Law at Beecham Peacock, advocates for a comprehensive leave policy that supports all employees. She comments: “Entitlements and eligibility for parental leave, pay and benefits should be clearly contained in your employer’s relevant policy. If their goal is to attract and retain their workforce through flexible and/or enhanced benefits packages then this information needs to be clearly set out and accessible. A clear policy makes employees aware of how much leave and pay they are entitled to, helps managers to respond to any queries, and allows your employer to plan for and support working parents.”

She adds: “Pay and leave aren’t the only considerations – for example, your employer may be able to offer a salary sacrifice scheme to make childcare arrangements. Other, non-financial support can also be a huge help for new parents or parents-to-be. Increasing the flexibility of working hours or offering a hybrid working scheme can give employees the support they need to manage the transition into parenthood. These measures will enable them to motivate and retain their workforce, without creating an onerous financial burden.”

Every company is different – and there’s unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all solution so employers need to think about which solution (or combination of solutions) is best-suited to them before creating or amending a parental leave policy.

*Established in 1953, Beecham Peacock is one of the North East’s leading law firms with a wealth of experience in a myriad of different legal fields. Its team of expert solicitors includes specialists in wills, trusts and probate, personal injury, family law and employment law. The firm also offers a wide range of other legal services. For employers considering creating or updating their policy, Beecham Peacock’s free policy reviews are a great starting point. More information here.



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