HR & Management

Five most generous parental leave policies UK firms could look to copy

8 min read

22 March 2016

Deputy Editor, Real Business

With productivity being a subject of great debate in the UK, it has led to many suggesting that benefits packages are the way to go in order to motivate staff. If it’s parental leave that you’re looking to check off your list of possible perks then here’s five policies you can glean from.

Etsy has been the talk of the nation after it increased the amount of parental leave it offered employees. This marks a huge change for the company given its old policy, whereby “primary” caregivers were allowed 12 paid weeks off compared to a “secondary” caregiver’s five weeks – with most men having thought they fell into the latter category. Now, both men and women will be eligible for six months leave after 1 April.

According to Juliet Gorman, Etsy’s director of culture and engagement, in a Huffington Post interview, the company adheres to a “millennial work ethic” – cited by a Bentley University study as being a crucial concept today’s employers need to know about. Essentially, millennials want to see “a direct impact and return for their efforts” and more often than not value family over work.

Therefore, enticing benefits such as parental leave is a sure way to retain top talent. With the UK offering one of the least generous benefits in Europe, we took a look at five parental leave packages British SMEs could aspire to use.

UK offers some of the least generous benefits in Europe

(1) Netflix

The company is fond of saying it hires only “fully formed adults” as it aims to rely on employees using their common sense. In fact, it has an incredibly strict hiring policy, with former chief talent officer Patty McCord having once explained that the company used a “keeper test” to find “A players”.

If one of your employees told you he or she was leaving the business, would you fight to keep them? If the answer was no, then the hiring squad let them go. While it may sound harsh, McCord claimed it fostered a professional environment where everyone was respected and their judgement could be trusted.

Leaning on the principle that staff can make accurate decisions for themselves, the company offers some incredible benefits. Neflix’s expense policy is compiled of five words: “Act in Netflix’s best interest”. Employees also have unlimited vacation time, as well as unlimited paid leave for new parents for one year. They are further allowed to choose to come back full-time, part-time or to “return and then go back out as needed”.

The five best and worst companies to work for


(2) Microsoft

The closest company to offering Netflix’s policy could arguably only be Microsoft. Before 1 November 2015, the company offered new mothers eight weeks of fully-paid maternity leave, along with a 12-week paternity scheme for both mothers and fathers.

The tech giant has since ramped up its benefits programme, enabling staff to take 12 weeks of fully-paid leave, on top of the eight weeks for new mothers – rounded up to form an astounding 20 weeks of paid leave. In addition, mothers have the option of going on short-term disability for two weeks before their due date. And as a bonus, Microsoft employees can take the 12 weeks leave either all at once or in spurts.

The company also enables new parents to choose whether they want to phase back into work on a half-time basis.

Read on to find out about the incredibly generous policy that very few people are eligible for – including one that began with the founder’s time off.

(3) Facebook

Before an overhaul of benefits by Netflix and Microsoft, Facebook was the reigning paid parental leave king. The social media platform gives staff 16 weeks of paid parental leave and it’s been suggested that the company has cultivated a culture where it’s taboo not to take the full amount off.

In order to give all employees the same amount of time off, Facebook had to introduce four extra months of leave for fathers – the announcement of which was made after founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed he would be taking two months of leave for the birth of his first child.

On top that, Facebook gives employees $4,000 in “baby cash” and has designated breast-feeding rooms. The company also subsidises adoption programmes, child care, as well as sperm donation and egg freezing initiatives.


(4) Virgin – only for some

In the UK, entrepreneur’s Virgin Group has courted much controversy. Virgin has gone where only Netflix has gone before by offering fathers a year’s paternity leave on full salary. In having done so, founder Richard Branson went above and beyond the set shared parental leave system outlined by the government allowing parents to divide 50 weeks of leave between them.

However, it comes with a catch. Only those that have worked with Virgin for four years are eligible to enroll on the programme. More importantly, the offer only applies to employees of Virgin Management. This means that only 140 people employed at offices are affected by the policy.

Nonetheless, it still remains a ground-breaking concept.

Richard Branson’s paid year of paternity leave for men just another cheap publicity stunt


(5) Adobe

Not to be overshadowed by the other tech giants, Adobe offers 26 weeks of paid maternity leave and 16 weeks of paid paternity leave for both birth and adoptive parents. This, according to Donna Morris, its SVP of people and places, was to boost the firm’s aim of striving towards increased workforce diversity.

Adobe previously allowed between eight to 26 weeks time off depending on the location of its workers. Its now fully implemented 16 weeks of paid time off for all “primary” caregivers is an increase from the company’s prior benefit of up to 12 weeks of time off – only two of which was paid.

The additional changes it made in August 2015 was the provision of four weeks paid leave to take care of sick family members, as well as up to ten weeks of paid time for surgery, illness, medical emergency and child birth.

The decision by Mark Zuckerberg to take two months off work as paternity leave has grabbed the business news headlines. How can the man who runs one of the world’s most valuable, dynamic and most closely-watched companies be out of the office for eight weeks?