Global management consultancy and professional services organisation Accenture equalised its shared parental leave and maternity leave policies to give employees equal opportunities to manage their work and family lives after the birth of a child.
The organisation, which has 11,500 employees in the UK, introduced its shared parental leave policy in 2015 when the legislation around this came into effect. Employees who take shared parental leave are entitled to 30 weeks of leave at full pay, which must be taken in one continuous block under the organisation’s policy rules. This is offered at the same level as Accenture’s enhanced maternity policy. Employees are also required to take a minimum of 12 weeks of shared parental leave.
Tony Horan, UK and Ireland human capital and diversity lead at Accenture, explains: “We really felt it [was] important to incentivise the policy as a way of really equalising with the previous maternity policy, as a way of really making sure that finances weren’t an impediment to take up. We felt people weren’t going to get the full experience out of the legislation if they were taking less than 12 weeks and in terms of longer-term gender diversity, it’s a great opportunity for men to understand some of the challenges of reintegrating into the workforce after a longer period of absence.”
When it first launched its policy, Accenture invested heavily in its communications strategy to ensure that all employees fully understood what shared parental leave could offer them. This included senior leader and department leader briefings, which featured frequently-asked-questions and summary videos.
Accenture also created a micro-site that linked to its internal portal where employees could access information dedicated to the shared parental leave policy, such as case-study scenarios of how couples could arrange to take their leave. The organisation also used internal role models and, in particular, promoted a case study of one of its senior managing directors who had taken shared parental leave. In addition, Accenture held training for its HR advisors in order to equip them to deal with employee applications and queries.
Accenture continues to promotes its shared parental leave policy in these ways, as well as aligning this to wider organisational events, for example, the event it held for International Women’s Day in March 2018.
As at February 2018, between 12% and 14% of eligible fathers at Accenture had taken up shared parental leave, with a total 254 employees having used the policy since its implementation. “[Shared parental leave] is really just a lever in giving our people the opportunity to make choices that are right for them and supporting fathers in the workplace,” adds Horan.
As well as equalising the pay and leave duration of its shared parental and maternity policies, Accenture has also equalised the support it offers to mothers and fathers. This includes opening up face-to-face workshops designed to prepare parents before and after their leave to all employees rather than just mothers as was previously the case, separating its Accent on Family employee network from the organisation’s women’s network, and offering fully paid keep-in-touch days.
Accenture also offers a variety of flexible-working opportunities, maintains a roster to keep track of when employees are returning from parental leave and gives every staff member a career counsellor. This is a more senior employee who provides ongoing career advice and support.
Horan says: “It was very important for us to equalise that policy, in terms of the shared parental leave and our maternity leave, [to] make sure that all our people had equal opportunities to the same provision. We see it as a longer-term lever for gender equality. I think when we get gender equality at home, it’ll be far easier to get gender equality in the workplace and it absolutely aligns with some of the ambitious aspirations that we’ve talked about to the market around our aspiration to have a gender-balanced workforce by 2025.”