Parental Leave: Major employers agree to publish policies in bid to tackle gender inequality

Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson is pushing for all companies with more than 250 employees to make parental leave and pay details public.

Ten major employers have agreed to make their parental leave and pay policies available to the public.

It is hoped the move will help to tackle gender inequality, as well as creating a more supportive culture for new parents.

The announcement is a major win for Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson who has long been campaigning to make parental leave and pay transparent.

Swinson praised the ten employers, which include Santander (24,000 employees) and RBS (53,000 employees), for “setting an excellent example, demonstrating to others they can do it too.” 

Between them the ten companies have around 150,000 employees.

Swinson said: 

“Greater transparency will create a more supportive culture for new parents.

“If we are serious about tackling discrimination against new parents and pregnant women in our workplaces, we need more employers to get on board. 

“Liberal Democrats demand better. Government Ministers should back my Bill to require all large organisations to publish their policies.”

In August, the government agreed to publish parental leave details for all its own departments. 

It came after Swinson tabled a Private Member’s Bill in June, to force all organisations with more than 250 employees to publish details of their parental leave and pay policy. She is still pursuing this.

At the time, human resources trade body the CIPD said the move could help tackle discrimination.

Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser for the CIPD, told the BBC that firms publishing parental leave policies on their websites could go some way to tackling pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

She told the broadcaster:

“More organisations being open about their parental leave policies sends a positive signal about its importance and could help to level the playing field in gender equality at work.”

Companies would be able to show investors they were “focused on sustainable growth by investing in and valuing its workforce for the long-term”, she said, and would be able to achieve greater diversity in the work place.

In June, Swinson said her bill would mean  prospective employees would have a clearer idea of parental leave policies without having to ask at interview.

She said:

“The problem is that currently the onus is on the job applicant to ask about these policies, but the very act of asking the question suggests to the employer that the candidate may be considering having a child,” she said.

“Research by Slater and Gordon found that 40% of managers would avoid hiring women of childbearing age.”

Swinson hopes existing staff will be able to compare their company’s policy with policies elsewhere, and to use this as leverage to demand better.  

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.

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