Shared Parental Leave – an Enabler for Gender Equality
Accenture aspires to be the world’s most inclusive and diverse organisation by 2020, and has publicly committed to a gender-balanced workforce by 2025. Accenture believes equal access to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is an enabler for this environment, and will enable a culture that allows all working parents to be successful whilst sharing accountabilities for childcare.
To achieve this, Accenture designed an SPL offering which would equalise opportunity for employees to take parental leave, and fulfil objectives of achieving an uptake that exceeds the societal norm, engaging men in the opportunities and challenges of taking a primary caring role, allowing a greater level of support for working mothers, and attracting talent from a generation which places work-life balance at a premium.
To date, there have been 217 applications across the organisation, representing 12% of eligible partners (compared to a UK average of below 1%). This has grown from 31 in 2015 to 114 in 2017 to date, and the average length of leave taken has increased from 22 weeks to 30 weeks.
Accenture’s gender retention rate has improved, particularly at middle and senior management levels, saving an estimated £8.5 million in rehiring costs. Candidates also reference the SPL policy as a reason for application in interviews, and there have been several discussions with FTSE 100 clients on Accenture’s SPL best practice and its impact on gender diversity.
Accenture believes its parental policies should be equal and inclusive for all employees, as well as financially attractive. The organisation’s market-leading SPL policy provides mothers, primary adopters, fathers and partners equal access to a maximum of 32 weeks’ full-paid leave, equivalent to its maternity provision. Accenture’s policy requires employees to take a minimum of 12 weeks’ leave in one period, meaning partners take significant time out to fully embrace the primary care role and challenges of re-integrating to the workplace, meaning they can better understand and support other parents. There is also an eight-week SPL notice period which minimises disruption to project work.
To inform how the offer was developed, Accenture consulted with Senior Leadership, its employee forum and Family network, and 400 current and prospective parents through a series of focus groups. These inputs were used to conduct forecast and financial modelling before the offer was launched.
Accenture took a holistic approach to drive uptake, including an all-employee and webcast to announce the new offering, which was supported by an internal micro-site including FAQs, a summary video, and blogs and profiles from SPL alumni. These profiles feature a diverse range of employees, including senior leaders, colleagues who were promoted whilst on SPL or shortly after returning, and same-sex couples. This highlighted that the policy is for all employees and dispelled fears about the impact of SPL on career progression.
The policy has also been featured in a wide range of national press and discussed on webcasts with MyFamilyCare, as well as other external HR & Family forums. SPL also has been part of Accenture’s International Women’s Day activity which reached a 40% male audience and 350 C-suite clients.
Information about SPL is embedded into orientation and induction processes and mandatory training for all promoted employees, and Accenture has a trained team of SPL HR experts who guide employees through the legislation and application process. Parental Leave/Returner workshops have also been redesigned to bring maternity, adoption and SPL takers together. A new strengths-based performance management model has been developed to ensure parental leave returners are not disadvantaged, and employees who take SPL remain in the Performance and Promotion cycle.
The UK Executive Committee is accountable for SPL and was engaged in financial scenario and business case modelling for the policy. Metrics on SPL are shared with Leadership each month. SPL alumni provide feedback for continuous improvement, and there are also discussions with client leadership to share experiences on SPL and encourage employees to take it.