Dads snap-up paid paternity leave to bond with new babies

Figures published by insurer Zurich show that the majority of its employees who are new dads[1], are taking up its new enhanced paternity package which was launched last year.  70% are taking the full 16-week paid paternity leave entitlement whilst 78% take three months or more.

This follows external research[2] published by the insurer which shows two fifths of new fathers don’t take the amount of paternity leave that they feel they need to bond with their new children.  For those not taking any time off, almost half (45%) said it was because they couldn’t afford to take a drop in their salaries as they would only receive the statutory amount of £151.20.

Prior to Zurich’s family friendly policy launch, the only option for fathers who wanted to take additional leave beyond the statutory paternity period was Shared Parental Leave[3].  Nationally, take up of the scheme is estimated to be as low as 1% a year[4]  with many citing financial constraints as the reason they don’t use it.

Zurich’s research also showed that more than one in four fathers put their careers on the backburner when starting or growing their family, as juggling the demands of parenthood as well as career progression was just too challenging.  However, when looking at the spread of people across its UK business who have taken time out to be with their new families, nearly one in five (19%) are in senior roles. In fact, 67% of this group took the full 16 weeks paid leave.

Zurich is also calling for the Government to make the publishing of family related leave and pay mandatory.  Being transparent about parental leave, pay, and benefits from the outset is increasingly critical to attracting and retaining the right talent to thrive and compete by demonstrating that employees can progress their careers as well as having a family.

A number of families were happy to share their experiences:

Case studies

Hannah and James Williams

Hannah and James Williams both work for Zurich and live in Marlborough.  James is a project manager and Hannah is an executive assistant.

Their first daughter (Elise) was born on the 7th of April 2020 they both benefited from Zurich’s new family friendly policy which launched one year ago.  Both planned to take the full 16 weeks paid leave, together as a family, enabling them to enjoy the first precious months of Elise’s life.

Pre-covid, they had originally planned to spend the time on family adventures, but with lockdown all of that was cancelled.  James adds “The family friendly policy really helped us through lockdown, we weren’t able to have friends or family visit in those first few months, it was just the three of us together.  Being able to concentrate solely on the family without having to worry about work pressures made a huge difference to us.  Whilst lockdown has been pretty horrible for lots of people, due to the family friendly policy we have managed to bond as a family really well.”

“Many of our friends are at the stage in their lives where they’re having babies now and most are lucky to get two weeks paid paternity leave.   As a family, sixteen weeks paid leave for both parents is a benefit that we have really appreciated and one that our friends are envious of.”

James returned to work on the 10th of August and is currently working from home.  Pre Covid he was office based though did work from home occasionally.  Going forwards, he’s likely to make use of Zurich’s flexible policy which might mean a couple of days a week at home when people start heading back into the office.  Hannah returns to work early next year.

Josh Dac

Josh Dac is a Construction Trading Underwriter for Zurich.  He and his wife Francesca had their first baby in December 2019 and were among the first parents to benefit from Zurich’s equalised family leave package.  Their own circumstances mean that this was a huge support to them.

Aurora was born on 17th December.   Unfortunately, there were complications during her birth, which left Francesca with some trauma and injuries – to such an extent that her recovery is ongoing.  Aurora was also very unwell with a fever and high calcium levels. Both mum and baby spent the first 3 weeks in hospital with Aurora undergoing blood tests several times a day.  She was on a drip and had to have a lumber puncture, which meant a very trying start to their life as a family.

The two months following Aurora’s arrival were spent back and forth to the hospital with ongoing tests and treatment to get her calcium levels down. Thankfully they got to where they needed to be Aurora is doing fine.

Josh adds; “Having the 16-week paid family leave was invaluable to us, I really can’t put into words just how important it was to have that time, to get through everything we had to go through as a family. We are also grateful that we were able to enjoy time together for a month or so before Covid-19 hit which was amazing.”

Josh returned to work in April and is also benefiting from Zurich’s approach to flexible working.

He adds, “I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to change my working pattern to 4 longer days, giving me an extra day at home with Aurora. This will be incredibly useful when my wife goes back to work, but also will be great for my own wellbeing, giving me that valuable time with my daughter.

“I feel like I have the best of both worlds.  I’m excited be getting stuck into work, feeling refreshed and knowing that my family has been fully supported. It’s put us into a really good position to continue with life as normal – as much as it can be right now….”

 Robert Innes

Robert is a Construction Risk Engineer for Zurich.  He’s a home worker, but since he’s based in London, he works out of the city office twice a week.  He’s married to Sian and at the end of November 2019 they had their first child – a daughter called Margot.

Robert initially took 2 weeks paternity leave in Dec (2019) and combined this with 3 weeks of annual leave to share the first 6 weeks of Margot’s life. He then returned to work for just over 8 months and is taking the remaining 14 weeks (from late August) until Nov when Margot will be 1 year old.

There were three weeks of overlap with wife Sian before she returned to work, initially for three days a week but building up to full-time.  This arrangement has worked brilliantly for their family as Sian transitions back to work and Robert embraces this unique opportunity to spend time precious time with his new daughter.

Commenting on his family leave experience Robert adds;

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to spend this time with Margot and a unique opportunity to watch as she grows and develops so quickly; something I would have missed by being in the office.  There’s also a financial benefit as my wife is the main earner. I am a huge believer that having a good paternity policy is one of the key components of driving equality in the workplace. This not only supports fathers who historically, have been denied this precious time with their children, it means that mothers have more support if they wish to return to work.

“Zurich’s general approach to flexibility and supporting parents is amazing.  I am a home worker so feel really lucky as this will enable me to get little snippets of time with my Margot during the working week. I also avoid wasting time commuting and instead, spend this time with my family.”

Commenting on Zurich’s family leave take-up, Steve Collinson, Zurich’s Head of HR said:

“The reaction we’ve had from parents about our gender-neutral family leave policy has been overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of parents telling us of their intention to take the full 16 weeks leave. This forms part of a broader approach to family friendly working and flexibility for parents and carers.

“It’s 2020, family life has moved on, and our approach as employers must too. “By enhancing statutory provision for all parents, we are supporting them in playing a more active role in family life. To allow more families to benefit, we would urge Government to enhance the statutory pay for fathers and second parents, which in turn will shift the dial and encourage more employers to follow suit.”

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of work-life balance charity Working Families—of which Zurich is an employer member—said:

“We are delighted to hear that the take-up of Zurich’s generous leave entitlement for new fathers has been so high. There is clear evidence that the longer fathers take leave during their child’s first year, the more involved they are in their child’s life on an ongoing basis. By offering 16 weeks of paternity leave at full pay, Zurich is enabling more fathers to share care—a huge step toward better gender equality in the workplace. We encourage other organisations to follow Zurich’s example.”

Zurich launched its new ‘family friendly’ policies[5] for its 4,500 UK employees last September.  This includes: up to 16 weeks full-pay for all parents; support for families whose children are born prematurely with additional paid leave for the premature period; paid leave to support through the IVF process; paid leave to support people with miscarriage; a refreshed policy for those with caring responsibilities; and a new bereavement and compassionate leave policy.



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