In recent times there has been a lot of support for the UK to adopt a more progressive approach to paternal leave. Lagging behind the likes of Sweden, a recent study revealed that we aren’t using shared parental leave, with only 8,700 new parents taking up the right to 12 months off. This is only 1% of the total that could.

Shared parental leave, which was introduced in 2015, gives parents the opportunity to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them. However, whether it’s due to stigma, or a lack of awareness, most parents are opting for the traditional maternal and paternal leave instead.

Seeing that uptake was poor, insurance firm Aviva have decided to take matters into their own hands, announcing a new company-wide policy offering men and women equal parental leave. This gives parents employed by Aviva the right to the same amount of paid and unpaid time off regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or how they became a parent (including natural birth, adoption or surrogacy).

This is part of Aviva’s new strategy to create a diverse working culture, which champions inclusivity and removes the barriers that classically would hinder career progression for many.

The Details

For UK employees, Aviva will provide up to 12 months leave for new parents, of which 26 weeks will be paid at the full basic rate. It will be available to everyone employed by the company and doesn’t take into consideration the length of their service, or their earnings.

The new policy includes:

  • Equal amount of paid and unpaid parental leave for new parents.
  • Available to both fulltime and part-time employees.
  • Leave is optional and won’t be forced.
  • The right to leave and pay is available if both parents are employed by the company, and can be taken concurrently.

Coming into effect from the 19th of November 2017, it will initially be available to employees in the UK, Ireland, France, Singapore and Canada, with a view to being rolled out to other businesses in 2018.

Speaking on the new policy, Mark Wilson, Group Chief Executive Officer, Aviva plc said:

“I want to live in a world where the only criteria for success is someone’s talent, not their gender. Treating parents equally will help make this happen. We want Aviva to be a progressive, inclusive, welcoming place to work. It’s good for our people and it’s also good business sense.”

Sarah Morris, Chief People Officer at Aviva, said:

“We think this is one of the most ground-breaking, family-friendly policies offered by any employer. It’s time to equalise parental leave and create a level playing field for men and women who want to take time out from their career to spend with their family.

“This will transform the first year of parenthood for many families, giving them the opportunity to spend precious time together. It’s one of our commitments to build a more inclusive and diverse culture at Aviva.”

As the UK’s largest insurer, serving a quarter of households, this is an extremely positive move that we should be applauding. And hopefully, with such a large company adopting such a progressive policy, we will see broader uptake from other businesses in the next 12 months too.