A member of Parliament in the UK is pushing for employers to be more proactive in clarifying their parental leave policies to their current and prospective employees, introducing a bill that would require many organizations to publish their policies online, the BBC reported on Wednesday:
Jo Swinson, a Lib Dem MP, said this was “a simple and practically effortless change” that would improve transparency and encourage more competition on pay. It would help firms “better attract and retain talent”, she added. Human resources trade body the CIPD said publication could help tackle discrimination.
Ms Swinson said more than 54,000 women a year lose their jobs because of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, while fathers were worried about taking shared parental leave because of the negative effect on their careers. … The MP has tabled a bill in the Commons that would require firms with more than 250 employees to publish those policies. Prospective employees would have a clearer idea of parental leave policies without having to ask at interview, she said.
In arguing for her bill, Swinson noted that “the very act of asking” about parental leave “suggests to the employer that the candidate may be considering having a child.” A recent survey of UK employers found that most expected women candidates to disclose if they were pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and many managers would decline to hire a woman of childbearing age on that basis. Publishing these policies would enable candidates and employees to find out about them without having to reveal their intent to have children to a manager who might penalize them for it.
There is really no good reason for employers not to advertise their parental leave policies, as these and other family benefits are highly attractive to many candidates—particularly, but by no means exclusively, women. Our research at CEB, now Gartner, has found that the availability of parental leave has a significant positive impact on employees’ perceptions of their overall benefits package. A lack of family-friendly policies is often a key factor in driving women out of the workforce. (CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council members can view our data on parental leave and rewards perceptions here.)
Parental leave benefits are not the only policies, however, that working parents look for in an employer—and their existence alone does not necessarily mean that employees will feel empowered to take advantage of them. In the US tech sector, for example, parental leave policies are robust but many mothers feel pressure from their managers or colleagues to return from leave early, often fearing that they will lose their jobs or be seen as less valuable if they don’t. To combat this, employers must ensure that employees not only know about their leave benefit but also feel safe in using it.
The same is true of flexible work options after new parents return from their leave, which employees are often afraid to ask for, citing those same fears. There are a couple of strategies organizations are using to ensure that employees feel empowered to ask for flexibility, or better yet, that they don’t even have to ask. Adobe pushes flexibility to returning employees proactively, to show them that the company expects and even encourages them to use these options. The Australian telecom company Telstra makes all of their roles flexible by default and requires managers who want to remove flexibility from a given role to explain why that role isn’t suitable for flexible work.
For more information on Telstra’s All Roles Flex model, CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can read our full case study here.
And CEB Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council members can use our flexible work toolkit to help design an effective policy that employees feel empowered to use, and can read our full research report on parental leave here.