The future of work: Making parental leave simpler and more inclusive

3 min read 7 May 21

If we want to make the world a little better, that starts within our own business. So we've been looking at ways we can be more inclusive. And that led us to simplify and update our HR policies.

As we came out of a de-merger,  it would’ve been very easy to simply transfer our old HR policies over to the new business – to think ‘we’ll look at this when things have settled down and we have more time'. But that wouldn’t have been true to our mission. Instead, we’ve cut 150 policies down to just 21. We were able to do this, in part, by taking a more inclusive approach. Our changes to parental leave In the UK are a good example of this.

We now have just one parental leave policy

We no longer have maternity leave, paternity leave or adoption leave. Our new parental leave policy is very straightforward: if you’re welcoming a new child into your family, you can take six months of fully-paid leave to focus on being a parent. It’s inclusive of everyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation and marital status.

We started by going right back to basics

We worked on the premise that: different people have different needs, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s needs are more important than anyone else’s.

“We rewrote our HR policies for adults. We thought about how our people use policies like parental leave, and how we can help them get the most out of them. And our Employee Relations team inclusively defined what it means to be a parent at M&G.”

– Mark McLane, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing

When we mapped out our policies on this basis, it naturally led them towards being simpler and more inclusive.

We looked at the benefits

It’s easy to see why some businesses tightly restrict the amount of leave their employees can take. They’re concerned about the impact on productivity. But the benefits of simplicity and inclusion go right to the core of a business. It makes us all feel more ‘seen’ and valued. It makes us happier in our careers and personal lives. Ultimately, we decided that the gains in culture and engagement from a more inclusive set of HR policies would far outweigh the negatives.

Our people are leading by example

We knew the perception of a policy can often be as important as the policy itself.

Pete O’Rourke, our Group Head of Employee Relations, was one of our first male colleagues to take six months parental leave. And by acting as a role model, he’s encouraged others to follow his lead.

“I had great support from my manager, which made the process very easy. And now, other men are coming to me for advice and guidance. And because I led by example, I feel I can answer all their questions from first-hand experience. Knowing how taking the time off made me feel at different stages of my leave has also made me a more empathetic leader and team-mate to colleagues both when they are on leave and when they are preparing to return to work.

– Pete O’Rourke, Group Head of Employee Relations

It’s not about good or bad HR policy – it’s about what works best for your business and your people

When we were planning out our policy overhaul, we quickly realised that every business has different needs. What’s wildly successful for one business might not work in another. But for us at M&G, our single parental leave policy is working well. And we hope other businesses think deeply about their HR policies when they consider the future of work.