When companies launch new parental leave policies, senior management always says that the move is “good for business”. That sounds encouraging, but what does it actually mean? What are the real costs? What kind of bottom-line returns are possible?

To find out how a global business thinks about these questions, we spoke with Anthony Fitzpatrick, Employee Relations and Global Policy Lead at the insurance company Aviva. Anthony was deeply involved in the launch of Aviva’s equal parental leave policy in November 2017, and has spent the last year closely tracking the results.

He talked frankly about costs and upside, and shared strategies for maximizing the business value of a parental leave policy. Here are his top five tips on how to make parental leave a success in your organization!

1) Focus On The Customer

Think carefully about how your customers might be impacted by a new policy, and take action to mitigate those risks.

Aviva was particularly conscious of staffing levels in customer-facing roles, and worked with managers and teams to monitor this part of their business closely. The result? Aviva’s metrics show customers experienced no change in service levels.

And, as added benefit, managers reported that staff who felt supported by the equal parental leave policy came back to work with a strong, positive mindset that ultimately benefited customers.

Customer Focus

2) Keep Staffing Costs Low With Stretch Assignments

Frame parental leave as an opportunity to recognize and develop your existing employees.

Aviva challenged itself and used internal talent to backfill almost all parental leave vacancies. Only a few specialist roles required temporary external hires. When a team member went on parental leave, colleagues responded positively to career stretch opportunities and chances to try out new roles.

Meanwhile, the policy has created a positive culture around employee retention. As a result, Aviva is confident its policy has a net neutral impact on staffing budget.

3) Pursue Simplicity and Light-Touch Administration

Although it might seem logical that a new parental leave policy needs new HR processes and reporting mechanisms, try to avoid that trap.

In pursuit of simplicity, Aviva used existing reporting metrics and communication channels wherever possible.

The result? Administrative burdens were kept to a minimum, and only a small investment was needed to tweak the company’s internal HR system.

4) Think Global, But Empower Local Solutions

If you’re a global business, the thought of writing a universal policy can be intimidating. While equal access to parental leave for all employees is certainly the best-case scenario, it may not be practical.

Recognizing this, Aviva opted to create a global philosophy around equal parental leave: it would support employees regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation; and it would be a market-leading benefit in each of its locations. Business units were then encouraged to implement according to local market conditions.

Did this create an uneven policy? Yes. The length of parental leave available to Aviva employees in different countries does vary, as do eligibility requirements. But it also means company is offering best-in-class parental leave benefits to its global workforce in a financially sustainable way.

Think Global Act Local

5) Measure What Matters For Long-Term Success

Unless you keep track of where you started and where you want to go, you won’t know if your new parental leave policy is successful.

By monitoring employee work habits and career trajectory before and after they take parental leave, Aviva is building a picture of their policy in action. Measuring key indicators will allow the company to continue adapting their equal parental leave offering in the years ahead.

You can read our full interview with Anthony here.

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