How Should You Best Approach Parental Leave and Similar Employee Benefits?

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Fiona Cannon OBE is the Group Director of Responsible Business and Inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group. Lloyds Banking Group was recently named ‘best for flexible recruitment’ and ‘best large private sector employer’ at the Top Employers for Working Families Awards. Here she discusses the importance of considering your working parent employees and flexibility with their time.

The school holidays have begun and many families are faced with the prospect of balancing 6 weeks of childcare and work. Not only is finding suitable childcare during this period logistically difficult, The Family and Childcare trust found that the cost of holiday childcare in Britain has gone up by 4% since 2016. The impact that this has on the workforce cannot be ignored by employers and we must take on a more supportive and agile role.

For many businesses your employees are your main assets, and hiring and retaining the best talent is crucial to meeting your business objectives. Working parents make up a significant portion of this talent, and building an inclusive working environment that values their needs will result in a more sustainable business culture. 43% of our colleagues at Lloyds Banking Group have parental or caring responsibility, and therefore promoting agile working is an absolute necessity to us.

One way we are supporting working parents is through our investment in Additional Parental Leave (APL) and an enhanced Shared Parental Leave (SPL) policy. These policies were designed to enable colleagues to spend more time with their children at key stages of their development and to strike a better balance between work and family commitments. APL for example allows all colleagues to take up to 18 weeks unpaid leave for each child up to age 18. Where colleagues have parental responsibility for children with disabilities, this entitlement increases to 26 weeks. Significantly, this policy means parents do not have to request to buy additional leave – though this option is available to all colleagues as part of their benefits selection.

The value of enhanced Parental Leave during the tricky school holiday period was recently felt by one of our male colleagues, who took seven weeks APL over the summer to mark the milestone of his eldest son’s transition from primary school to secondary school. Due to the Group’s regular positive communication around agile working, this colleague felt hugely supported by his Line Manager and wider team, and returned to work with renewed enthusiasm.

We’ve also found a number of business advantages to workplace agility; we live in a 24/7 environment and we need to be flexible in order to give customers access to our services when they want. By imbedding agile working into our business we are able to better respond to customer’s needs while delivering the work-life balance that our colleagues want – and deserve.

Beyond talent retention and meeting customer needs, the positive effects extend to better employee decision making, increased engagement and boosted productivity. These are all benefits we have seen at Lloyds Banking Group and our colleague engagement scores for work-life balance are tracking favourably.

The cross-section of interest is apparent: employers need an agile workforce, to remain competitive, and employees want to work in more agile ways, to support their modern lifestyles. However, agile working needs to be embedded into the entire culture of the organisation in order for these mutual benefits to be felt. It should not be a bolt on activity left to HR, but something all levels of the business are educated on and embracing.

At Lloyds Banking Group we recently launched an online portal for our Line Managers (available to all employees) called ‘Workforce Agility’, which uses a variety of training methods to encourage Line Managers to support their teams working in an agile way. We also advertise over 90% of all vacancies on our internal job portal as agile, challenging the myth that effective teams must all work in the same office in full-time positions. Hoping to encourage other employees to promote agility at the point of hire we are now sponsoring a national campaign called ‘Hire Me My Way’.

Promoting agile working also ties into our Helping Britain Prosper Plan, which we launched in 2014 to help people, business and communities. This included making a public commitment to building an inclusive and diverse workforce at Lloyds Banking Group. The Plan is not alternative to Lloyds Banking Group’s commercial activities, but sits at the heart of our overall business strategy. As one of the largest retail and commercial banks we are inextricably linked with the prosperity of the UK and the challenges it faces. To put it simply, we know that when Britain prospers, so do we.

The Plan, and alongside it our commitment to working families, is an investment in our long-term success, and a fundamental part of our ambition to become the best bank for our customers, colleagues, shareholders and the communities in which we operate.

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