Closing The Gap

Spirits giant Diageo is offering six months of paid parental leave in the UK — regardless of gender

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Alcoholic beverages firm Diageo will offer 26 weeks of fully paid parental leave to male and female employees in the U.K. from Wednesday.

All workers will be offered a total of 52 weeks of leave when they become parents, retaining all benefits and bonuses during the first 26 weeks. The perk will also be applicable whether employees become parents biologically, via surrogacy or through adoption.

Diageo's latest offer will be open to all 4,500 of its employees across the U.K., positioning the beverage-maker as one of the nation's top employers when it comes to parental leave.

According to price comparison site Money Guru, management consultancy Accenture currently offers the best package to new mothers in the U.K., providing 36 weeks' fully paid maternity leave. Insurer Aviva and online retailer Etsy take a "gender blind" approach and offer all employees 26 weeks of paid parental leave.

American Express provides Britain's best paternity leave offering, according to Money Guru, with 20 weeks of paid leave.

In the U.K., employers are legally obligated to pay new mothers 90 percent of their salary for the first six weeks of their maternity leave, and £145.18 ($189.18) per week for the next 33 weeks. Men are legally entitled to one or two weeks of paid leave if they are taking time out of work to care for their new child.

Mairead Nayager, Diageo's chief HR officer, said in a press release that achieving gender equality in the workplace required "fundamental changes" to a range of working practices.

"Today's announcement is about matching ambition with action and supporting all of our colleagues — regardless of gender — to experience the joy of raising a young family while continuing to thrive at work," she said.

The company's new policy also strengthens support for new parents as they prepare to return to work, Diageo said, with optional keeping in touch days, parental coaching, and flexible working policies.