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Why shared parental leave matters

Article by Rachel Duncan

We know having a diverse and inclusive organisation is good not only for its employees, but for the business itself. It makes an organisation a better place to work; it creates equality of opportunity; it delivers better results and innovation for the business and more value for shareholders.  Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do. For an organisation like Experian, where our job is to understand the widest possible consumer audience, it’s essential that our own internal make-up reflects the people we serve.  We have a way to go to get there, but we are making progress.

Equality of opportunity is key. Organisations must work to level the playing field so that everyone has the same choices, regardless of their gender, background, or lifestyle. Businesses and HR leaders all have a role to play in better listening and understanding the challenges their people face and put in place support mechanisms and benefits to relieve the burden. A large part of their role involves education.  Educating their people on the benefits that already exist to give everyone equal access.

Take, for example, Shared Parental Leave (SLP), which the UK has had since 2015. Take-up for this has been worryingly low – and we need this to change. Shared parental leave has so many potential benefits. It gives both parents the opportunity to bond with their child and see more of their early development. It also gives both the choice to take less time out from their careers, should they choose. Organisations, on the other hand, have the opportunity to better support their people through a life-changing event, something that undoubtedly helps win employee loyalty, commitment, and trust.

That’s why, at Experian, we’ve updated our SPL policy on pay so it matches the maternity and adoption leave we currently offer. Any parent, regardless of whether they are the birthing partner, primary adopter or not, can choose to take it up. We’re working hard to embed that message in the organisation, running sessions with all employees and spending time with all our people managers to help them understand what the changes mean, so they can encourage their teams to take it up as well.

This is only one of the steps we need to take, but it is a step that takes us a little further down the path towards equality of opportunity. It’s one of many changes we will continue to make as we support our employees both in and outside the workplace.

It’s more important than ever as we recover from the pandemic that everyone can make the choice that is right for them – whether that relates to family care or to any other element of their working lives. Childcare has come to the forefront over the last 12 months, for good reason. The burden of childcare has always fallen disproportionately on the primary carer, and that trend has only skewed further with schools closed and lockdowns in place. Employers need to help their people manage their work life balance in a way that works for them. Everyone must be able to make a choice.

At Experian, we recognise that we’re at the start of a long road back from a period of immense personal, social, and economic upheaval. This step is just one of many we’ll make to ensure we’re offering the best possible support for our employees – current and future – to make sure they can manage their lives in the best way for them.

Employers now have a real opportunity to help their employees set themselves up for success in a post Covid world; and give them the chance to make the best choices for themselves, their families, and their lives. We all need to consider this responsibility and take the next step – towards equality of opportunity – together.

    Rachel is Director of HR at Experian UK and Ireland. She drives Experian's efforts to be a diverse and inclusive organisation that provides equality of opportunity for all. She has been part of the company since 2014.

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