Employers increasing parental leave benefits in battle for talent

More companies are enhancing parental leave pay and offering other return to work support as the battle for talent heats up, a new benchmarking exercise shows.

pregnant woman working


Major employers are increasing the range of benefits they offer to encourage staff retention, post-leave career progression and satisfaction and to reduce recruitment costs, according to a new benchmarking exercise by Bright Horizons.

The exercise found almost four-fifths (79%) of top-tier employers now enhance Maternity (and Adoption/Surrogacy) Leave pay beyond the statutory minimum. This is an increase of 22 percentage points since a previous issue of the Benchmark in 2017 (57%). 67% of employers currently enhance Paternity or Partner Leave pay, compared with just 44% offering this in 2017. And those offering enhanced Shared Parental Leave pay have almost doubled in the past four years, from 25% in 2017 to 48% in 2021.

The most frequent enhancement of Maternity/Adoption pay is now 26 weeks’ full pay among sectors such as banking, professional services and technology. In sectors where talent retention is key and packages are at the top end, companies are coupling generous enhanced pay with programmes of coaching, childcare and other support.

Denise Priest, Director of Employer and Strategic Partnerships at Bright Horizons, said: “It’s no secret that ensuring more parents return to work after taking parental leave makes sense for businesses; it reduces recruitment costs and keeps valuable knowledge in the business. But the competition between companies has really stepped up in the past four years, as our research shows. Interestingly, the majority who offer enhanced paternity leave still offer just two weeks at full pay. However, 21% now offer more than this, compared to only 9% who offered more than two weeks in 2019. This could be a good area for companies looking to differentiate themselves from competitors and steal a march on talent.”

Nearly 700 organisations gave input on their parental leave policies from sectors including Financial Services; Legal & Professional services; Digital; Technology & Telecoms; Engineering & Construction; and Hospitality, Travel & Leisure in the UK and Ireland.


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