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Zurich announces family-friendly employment policies

Written by: Emma Lunn
The insurer’s new approach includes up to 16 weeks full-pay for all parents, additional paid leave for parents of premature babies, and paid leave and support during IVF and miscarriage.

Zurich is taking an equalised approach to company enhanced maternity, adoption and paternity leave, with the new rules coming into force on 19 December 2019.

Non-birthing parents will receive up to 16 weeks full pay after 26 weeks service, with the first two weeks of leave to be taken at birth or adoption placement. The remaining 14 weeks need to be taken in one block within a year.

Parents will receive additional paid leave if their baby is born prematurely, while couples undergoing IVF will be allowed up to 16 days’ leave in a 12-month period.

Anyone suffering a miscarriage will receive one week’s paid leave. Flexibility and support for partners is also offered through Zurich’s FlexWork programme.

Zurich is also offering more support to people with caring responsibilities, as well as introducing a new bereavement and compassionate leave policy which includes a month’s paid leave in the event of the death of a close relative.

How fathers feel about paternity leave

To coincide with the new family friendly policies, Zurich has examined how fathers feel when returning to work after the birth of a child. It found that the majority of new dads don’t take the amount of paternity leave that they feel they need to bond with their new children.

Four in 10 (40 per cent) of respondents said that on returning to work, they didn’t feel they’d spent enough time with their new family. A quarter (26 per cent) said they felt too tired and that performing their jobs was difficult.

Of those surveyed, just under half (49 per cent) said they took between 11 and 14 days statutory paternity leave, 30 per cent took between four and 10 days, while 15 per cent said that they took no time off at all.

Of those who didn’t take statutory paternity leave, almost half (45 per cent) said they couldn’t afford to take the drop in their pay for two weeks.

The figures are in stark contrast with the amount of time dads would like to take off in an ideal world – where the majority (67 per cent) would choose up to 20 weeks, while 25 per cent would take more time off than that.

It seems that this gap is taking its toll with seven in 10 (72 per cent) dads agreeing either somewhat or strongly that new fathers tend to suffer emotionally and mentally after the birth of a child and juggling the demands of returning to work.

Government proposals to improve parental leave

Zurich’s announcement coincides with Government proposals to improve parental leave entitlements for fathers and partners, and for employers to be more transparent about their family related leave and pay policies.

Under the current law, new fathers are entitled to either one or two weeks’ paternity leave. They must have a contract of employment and have been working for the same employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week their baby is due. Statutory Paternity Pay is either £148.68 a week or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings (whichever is the lower amount).

Steve Collinson, Zurich’s head of HR, said: “It comes as no surprise that the vast majority of fathers we’ve surveyed do not feel they’re getting the precious time they need to bond with their new families. The current deal for most dads, ultimately impacts both parents and seems outdated given the shifts we’re seeing in family make-up and the roles we play.

“As an employer, we’re hugely proud to be announcing these changes – fundamentally, it’s about doing what’s right for our employees. As well as having some hugely talented people at Zurich that we want to keep hold of, we’re keen to attract new talent and believe offering a family friendly workplace, which includes flexible working options for all parents, is a step in the right direction.”

Jane van Zyl, CEO of work-life balance charity Working Families, said:  “As an employer member of Working Families, Zurich is committed to family-friendly and flexible policy and practice. We are delighted that Zurich has taken the important step of introducing 16 weeks of fully paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave.

“Alongside the company’s stellar flexible recruitment policies, these new parental entitlements will go a long way toward creating a supportive, gender-equal and embedded flexible working culture – which is exactly what we need from employers to help close the gender pay gap.”

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