Two-thirds of businesses now provide enhanced maternity pay, poll finds

Organisations see long-term advantages from ‘family friendly’ benefits, experts say, as research reveals huge variation in employers’ offerings

Nearly two-thirds of UK businesses now provide maternity pay that is more generous than the statutory minimum, research has found, but there is still huge variation in what is provided by employers.

A poll of 375 employers by XpertHR found 65 per cent of organisations pay some form of enhanced maternity pay; three in five (61 per cent) provide enhanced paternity pay; and a quarter (25 per cent) now offer enhanced shared parental leave.

However, there is huge variation among what employers offer their staff. The most common form of enhanced maternity leave, offered by two in five (42 per cent) firms, is full pay for six weeks followed by the standard statutory rate.

Around three in 10 offer full pay for three months, while one in five offer full pay for six months.

But the research also showed 37 per cent of employers make enhanced maternity pay dependent on the employee returning to work following their leave.

Currently, statutory maternity pay is 90 per cent of the employee’s average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, followed by a standard range of £151.97 a week – or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings if the employee earns less than this – for the next 33 weeks.

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The analysis showed nearly half of employers (46 per cent) also provided other benefits to their employees, including coaching or mentoring to support women returning to work, as well as flexible working on a temporary or permanent basis.

Rachel Sharp, HR practice editor at XpertHR, said employers that provided “family-friendly benefits” to their staff were likely to see long-term advantages.

“Being able to provide support during this time highlights your commitment to these employees and can be a really strong way to attract and retain top talent and create a culture of inclusiveness across the business,” she said.

The findings come as separate research shows extended periods of time away from work disproportionately impact on women.

A poll of more than 1,000 people who had returned to work after an absence of a year, conducted by Survation for Vodafone UK, found 37 per cent of those who return to work after a year or more away experience a loss of confidence in their own ability. This loss of confidence was nearly twice as prevalent in women (42 per cent) than in men (24 per cent).

The research also showed women returning to work were more likely to face barriers than men. Nearly half (45 per cent) of women cited caring responsibilities as a challenge when returning to work, compared to 30 per cent of men, and 46 per cent of women cited childcare costs as a hurdle, compared to just 23 per cent of men.

Similarly, just under a third (31 per cent) of women returners said they found it hard to reacclimatise to working life after a long break, compared to a quarter (25 per cent) of men.