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This big employer just offered men and women the same parental leave

Key Points
  • Aviva is offering one year of leave, with half of that term to be on full pay
  • The insurer says it will help prevent interruptions to career progression
  • The U.K. and U.S. lag other countries when it comes to parental leave rights
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The largest insurance company in Britain has announced that all new parents are to be offered the same amount of paid leave after a child's birth.

Aviva is offering one full year of leave, with half of that term to be on full pay.

The firm said the terms will apply to all employees, irrespective of their gender or sexuality. Further, it won't matter on how the employees became a parent, be it by birth, adoption or surrogacy.

Aviva said the rule change creates a "level playing field for men and women" who want to balance time with their newborn with career progression.

As it stands in the U.K., only mothers are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave. Laws dictate that maternity pay covers the first 39 weeks of a child's life.

This is usually paid at 90 percent of the mother's weekly wage for the first six weeks, before a lower rate kicks in — the legal minimum amount that an employer can offer, although contracts vary.

Shared parental leave, which allows both parents to share up to 50 weeks out of the office, was introduced in the U.K. in 2015 as an available replacement for maternity leave.

But research by EMW, a commercial law firm, showed that between April 2016 and March 2017, just 8,700 new parents took advantage of the new laws — a tiny proportion.

Analysis by the trade union body TUC suggested that the UK ranked 22nd out of 24 European countries that offered statutory maternity leave.

In the United States, mothers only receive 12 weeks of guaranteed leave following the birth of a child and there is no law requiring businesses to offer any pay.

In 2015, announced that it would start offering employees "unlimited" maternity and paternity leave on full pay through the first year after a child's birth or adoption.