When starting a family, it can be a shock to discover how much or how little you're entitled to in the way of maternity and paternity leave.
With statutory maternity pay currently standing at 90% of the mother’s wage for the first six weeks and then falling to just £145.18 per week for the following 33 weeks, no wonder parents are making difficult decisions about how long they can spend with their newborn before returning to work.
As well as issues around pay, there can also be concerns about the effect time away will have on a career. Both men and women have a lot to think about when starting a family.
When your child grows up there may be sick days, school plays and after school clubs to work around.
At Money Guru we've decided to look at and compare the best places to work for mothers, fathers and families to see who is top of the mums and dads.
70% of UK employers believe that women should declare their pregnancy during the recruitment process
The gender pay gap in the UK, as a whole is currently 18.1% and there are no sectors which favour women over men with higher pay.
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 70% of employers feel that women should have to say if they are pregnant during the recruitment process and almost a quarter (24%) believed that women should work for them for at least a year before deciding to have children.
With 74% of mothers in the UK working, the idea that mothers are less able to work or can even be a financial burden on a company could be seen as a direct link to the gender pay gap.
Perhaps more flexible parental leave allowing fathers to take a greater role in caring for children could help to remove the apparent stigma of parenthood from women and eventually reduce the gender pay gap?
Top 10 workplaces for women and maternity leave
|Statutory Maternity Leave||52 weeks leave, 6 weeks leave paid at 90% of average weekly earnings, 33 weeks of statutory maternity pay (SMP) of £145.18 per week.|
|1||Accenture||36 weeks maternity leave on full pay.|
|2||Transport for London||26 weeks fully paid maternity leave, 13 weeks statutory maternity pay and a possible additional 13 weeks unpaid leave. This is open to all employees regardless of length of service.|
|3||M & G||Childcare vouchers and ‘enhanced maternity package’.|
|4||Etsy||Gender blind – meaning they offer all employees 26 weeks of fully paid leave to be taken in the first year of their child’s life. There are also assistance programmes for parents of children with special needs and unlimited sick leave which employees are encouraged to use for caring for their children.|
|5||Aviva||26 weeks leave with full basic pay regardless of gender, sexual orientation or whether they had given birth, adopted or conceived through surrogacy.|
|6||UKFast||16 weeks paid maternity leave, on-site creche and baby hampers for new mums and dads.|
|7||Vodafone||16 weeks of full paid maternity leave and a further six months of four-day weeks on full pay.|
|8||Netflix||Parents are allowed to take off as much time as they want in the first year, while being paid their full salary. They can choose to return full or part-time and this is inclusive of birth and adoption.|
|9||Microsoft||20 weeks paid leave, 8 weeks fully paid after the birth and 12 weeks parental leave for both mothers and fathers which can be taken at once or in spurts. They also offer mothers two weeks disability leave before their due date and phased return.|
|10||Civil Service||26 weeks fully paid leave and shared parental leave which can be taken in one go or in blocks throughout the first year.|
Maternity support was introduced to the UK just over 100 years ago, in 1911.
Unbelievably, women could still be sacked for becoming pregnant up until 1975, when the Employment Protection Act was brought in.
Only 50% women had access to maternity leave right up until 1993, when it was given to all women, as Britain was forced to comply with a European commission directive.
With such a short history of women being supported during pregnancy and motherhood in the workplace, it’s impressive to see these companies offering more inclusive and beneficial options.
Top 10 workplaces for men and paternity leave
|Statutory Paternity Leave||1-2 weeks leave with paternity pay|
|1||American Express||20 weeks paid parental leave with an ongoing campaign to promote taking the time.|
|2||Lenovo||8 weeks paid paternity leave and ongoing flexible leave for any sort of family emergency.|
|3||Spotify||6 months of parental leave, child care subsidy and support in case of emergency..|
|4||Etsy||26 weeks fully paid parental leave, assistance programmes for parents of children with special needs and unlimited sick leave which employees are encouraged to use for caring for their children.|
|5||20 weeks paid parental leave. An organisation called Twitter Parents offers discounts on goods and services.|
|6||IBM||14 to 20 weeks parental leave, which can be taken anytime throughout the child’s first year.|
|7||Netflix||Leave is worked out on an individual basis with no official cap.|
|8||Deloitte||16 weeks parental leave and emergency back-up care for all parents and those with elderly relatives.|
|9||Lyft||18 weeks paid paternity leave to be taken in the child’s first year. There is also an internal group for parents offering additional support.|
|10||16 weeks fully paid parental leave, staged return and support for parents, those going through IVF and adoption.|
Paternity leave was first introduced in UK law in 2003 with men receiving statutory paternity leave. This was extended to all fathers in 2010 to include those adopting and employees within small businesses. Though still extremely limited and most men taking one to two weeks leave upon the birth of their child, some companies are providing new fathers with more extensive paternity leave to try and create greater equality for parents of all genders.
39% of young mums have been illegally asked in a job interview about how being a mother would affect their ability to work
If fathers can take time just like mothers, then this can help both men and women. There will be less chance of discrimination against women if they choose to take time away from work to have children as the responsibility of a newborn is shared more across both parents.
Shockingly, a survey by YouGov for women’s charity Young Women’s Trust has reported that 39% of young mums have been illegally asked in a job interview about how being a mother would affect their ability to work.
One in seven employers also admitted that they would be reluctant to hire a woman who they thought may go on to have children. The Young Women’s Trust chief executive, Dr Carole Easton OBE says:
“It’s not just employers’ who need to stop treating women as second-class citizens; society as a whole should support men to take an equal role in childcare. Until that happens, women will continue to face discrimination at work.”
Other countries have successfully introduced longer periods of paternity leave with Nordic countries particularly successful in offering fathers plenty of time with their little ones.
Top 10 workplaces for working families
|Shared Parental Leave (SPL)||
Up to 50 weeks as SPL, and a max of 37 weeks of Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). You can take SPL at a different time from your partner/other parent, or at the same time.
|1||American Express||20 weeks paid parental leave with an ongoing campaign to promote taking the time.|
|2||Barclays Bank||26 weeks leave at full pay, followed by 13 weeks statutory pay.|
|3||Crown Prosecution Service||26 weeks maternity leave, 2 weeks paternity leave, 26 weeks adoption leave and 52 weeks shared parental leave.|
|4||Deloitte||16 weeks parental leave, emergency back-up care for all parents and those with elderly relatives.|
|5||Independent Living Fund Scotland||26 weeks shared parental leave on fully pay.|
|6||Intellectual Property Office||Home working, flexible hours, shared parental leave.|
|7||Lloyds Banking Group||As well as shared parental leave, Lloyds also has an Agile Working scheme offering part time work, job shares, reduced hours, compressed hours, home working and other flexible arrangements with a third of their workforce making use of this scheme.|
|8||Pinsent Masons||Flexible working for all, shared parental leave and supportive environment for parents.|
|9||Royal Bank of Scotland||52 weeks maternity leave, shared parental leave, paid paternity leave.|
|10||Southdown Housing||Flexible working, parental leave, special leave for emergencies and moving home.|
Shared Parental Leave was introduced in the UK in 2015, offering new parents the opportunity to share up to 50 weeks leave of which 37 weeks are paid. They can divide the leave between them however they like in the child’s first year.
Many parents aren’t aware of this opportunity to share parental leave and just 2% of couples are making use of SPL.
However, we’re now seeing some employers introducing ‘equal parental leave’ for both mothers and fathers. In January 2019, media company The Telegraph introduced Equal Parental Pay. This allows both new mothers and fathers at The Telegraph to take 26 weeks full pay for parental leave, with keeping in touch days, parenting coaching and bank holidays provided to both men and women. While it is currently only one a few companies in the UK to offer this, it sets a precedent for others to follow suit.
There is still pressure on many new mums and dads to stay within traditional gender roles. Registered Psychologist Rachel Hard told Money Guru that
“There are a number of reasons why men might not be taking parental leave; these include accessibility and equality of paternity leave opportunities as well as cultural norms and social expectations. In some cases there are still differences in terminology amongst businesses, or the way that people use language to describe the period of time taken off work after having a new baby...i.e. Maternity leave versus parental leave. The title 'maternity leave' gives a gendered role or expectation of who can/should take leave to care for a new baby. The traditional male and female roles are often still in play despite social sanctions to establish equality.”
The gender pay gap also has a part to play in ongoing parental leave disparity. Women are likely to earn less than their male counterparts and therefore when it comes to deciding who should take the most time away from work the partner who earns the least is most likely to sacrifice their pay - and that’s usually the woman. Closing the gender pay gap and making men just as likely as women to take time out when they have children will help to establish greater gender equality.
The top 10 businesses for families are actively trying to overcome these gender norms and open up the possibility of time with a new baby to parents of any gender. Allowing parents to decide what form their parental leave should take and the sort of support they need will empower parents so that they can balance family life with their careers.
Read more about the best place in the world to be a parent or where the UK ranks for parental leave.