A better deal for new parents

Simon Wakeman

Feb 02 2018

Baby holding a finger

We always aim to be transparent about how we run our agency. We think it’s important to have honest discussions about what we’re trying, what’s working, and how we can do better.

We’re also committed to reviewing our work practices regularly to ensure that they allow our team to achieve a healthy work life balance. It’s why flexible working is the default at Deeson – everyone in our team works from wherever they feel they’re most effective.

Over the past few years, we’ve introduced a number of initiatives designed to help us build a long-term, stable and high-performing team. These include mandatory five-week sabbaticals every five years, an individual Wellness Fund for team members to spend on their personal wellbeing, and a peer recognition scheme run from our messaging platform, Slack.

But while we’ve no doubt these initiatives contribute to our team’s happiness at work, we know there’s more we could do to remove barriers to building a long-term career at Deeson – or applying for a job here in the first place.

As part of our continuing effort to build a truly diverse workplace and attract the widest range of potential candidates, and in response to feedback from our team, we have recently improved our maternity, paternity, adoption and shared leave provision.

Improving our offer.

The UK (alongside Bulgaria) boasts the longest statutory maternity leave period in the world – up to 12 months. But much of this is either unpaid, or paid at a low flat rate. Our previous offering put us in line with the statutory minimum, on a par with national employers like NatWest and Boots.

We knew we could do better.

So for Deeson team members who’ve been with us for more than two years, we now provide 13 weeks maternity leave at full pay, 12 weeks at half pay and then 13 weeks of statutory maternity pay.

Our new policy pays well above the statutory minimum, which we hope will have a huge positive impact on those in our team who take advantage of it.

Why this is important.

It eases financial strain.

The Modern Families Index 2018 report by charity Working Families shows that 52% of the UK families surveyed feel it’s becoming more financially difficult to raise a family. Getting into debt can be a real concern for expectant parents.

Under our new policy, an employee on an annual salary of £30,000 will be up to £4,591 better off taking maternity leave than they would have been before we updated our policy. We hope this will contribute to easing the financial burden they may feel as a new parent, and mean that money is one less thing team members need to worry about when making the decision to have a baby.

It prioritises mental health.

The NHS estimates that more than 1 in 10 women experience postnatal depression after having a baby, and fathers and partners can be affected too. A stressful work or financial situation can contribute to the symptoms.

We’d like to offer support to the new parents on our team beyond just updating their pay entitlement, which is why we’re currently seeking to gain independent accreditation through Tommy's Pregnancy at Work programme. It provides a free telephone helpline for expectant parents to get independent, confidential advice from qualified midwives.

It protects work life balance.

We want our team to be happy and productive at work, but we also want to make it easy for them to switch off from work and focus on the other things that matter in their lives. Many parents return to work early after having a baby because they simply can’t afford to stay at home. This eats into precious time that could be spent together as a family.

In particular, while roughly a third of all new fathers in the UK are eligible for two weeks statutory paternity pay, figures suggest that many of them don’t take advantage of it – the likely reason for many being that they can’t afford to forgo their regular pay.

Our former paternity leave provision was in line with the statutory rates set by the government, but we’ve now updated our policy to offer two weeks of paternity leave at full pay for team members who’ve been with Deeson for at least a year. This means new fathers won’t have to sacrifice any of their earnings to be able to spend time at home with their baby.

It’s a fairer deal for women.

We’ve been reviewing our hiring and work practices over the last couple of years to make sure they’re not inadvertently preventing us from bringing the best people into the Deeson team, and allowing them flourish.

In particular, we’ve shown our commitment to closing the gender pay gap by stopping the practice of asking potential hires their most recent salary, so that we don’t perpetuate any imbalance. Our new salary scales and pay review process, which we’re excited to launch very soon, will make this process even fairer and more transparent.

Our updated maternity policy takes us further in this direction. The details of this and all our policies are publicly available in our team handbook. We hope sharing this information upfront means that women who wish to work at Deeson and also plan to start or continue their family will feel confident that they’ll receive a fair deal when the time comes.

How we introduced the change.

This update to our policy initially came about as part of a broader pay and reward review. We’ll share more about the outcomes of this project in an upcoming post, but essentially we want everyone to be paid fairly and sustainably for their work at Deeson. And we want how pay is set and changed to be as transparent as possible.

As part of the early consultation about the pay and reward review, we had a number of discussions with our team about how best to improve our parental leave provision. We considered a number of different options before arriving at a draft of the new policy.

As with any change that impacts our team, we felt it was important for staff to be involved in the decision-making process. Following an initial period of research into what other companies offer, the leadership team put together a proposal for a new policy and circulated this throughout the rest of the agency for their feedback.

Our team responded enthusiastically, and we finalised the changes to our policy taking their comments and suggestions into account. These changes became effective from 1st January 2018, and the updated maternity, adoption and paternity provision can be read in full in our handbook.

Simon Wakeman

About the author

Simon Wakeman

Chief Executive Officer