Closing The Gap

A British finance firm is offering 9 months' equal parental leave on full pay

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Asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen is offering nine months' fully-paid parental leave to both new moms and dads working in its U.K. business.

The policy is believed to be one of the most generous in the U.K.'s finance sector, more than doubling the firm's current full-pay maternity allowance of four months, with paternity leave at just two weeks.

The changes come into place from the beginning of next year and will allow parents 40 weeks of fully-paid leave, including those who have adopted or who have a child via surrogate.

Parents can take up to 52 weeks as one, two or three periods of leave, over two years from birth or adoption and will get additional time out of work if they have a premature baby.

Rose Thomson, chief HR officer at Standard Life Aberdeen, said the current shorter policy meant new parents may have had to make difficult decisions about who can afford to take leave and "whether one parent's time with the child takes away from the other."

"We think that needs to change," she added.

Meanwhile, cellphone network provider Vodafone has announced plans to introduce equal parental leave this week, offering both parents 16 weeks of fully-paid leave for its employees globally.

It is also allowing employees to phase their return from parental leave by working the equivalent of a 30-hour week at full pay for a further six months.

By the end of March 2021, Vodafone is aiming to make parental leave available to all non-birthing parents — regardless of gender, sexuality or length of service — across its 24 markets and operations in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the U.S.

Nick Read, Vodafone CEO, said the company wanted to be able to offer every parent more time with their child "without worrying about the impact on their finances or careers."

Insurer Aviva introduced equal parental leave in 2017, letting its U.K. employees take up to 12 months out, including 26 weeks at full pay.

It found new fathers had taken an average of 21 weeks' paternity leave in the year after the policy was introduced, versus two weeks in the previous year.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation scrapped its year-long policy in February, instead opting for half as much paid leave and giving new parents a $20,000 stipend.