Major employers are now increasing the range of benefits they offer including enhanced maternity and paternity leave. 

According to new research by Bright Horizons, close to four in five (79 per cent) employers now enhance maternity (and adoption and surrogacy) leave pay beyond the statutory minimum.

This comes amid the war for talent where companies are vying to retain staff, encouraging post-leave career progression and satisfaction and aiming to reduce recruitment costs.

A similar rise has been reported among the number of employers offering enhanced Paternity or Partner Leave pay which has risen by a fifth over recent years, up to 67 per cent in 2021.

Promisingly, Shared Parental Leave pay has also become a more popular offering from employers, climbing from just 25 per cent in 2017 to 48 per cent in 2021.

Denise Priest, Director of Employer and Strategic Partnerships at Bright Horizons, commented on these enhanced benefit packages:

It’s no secret that ensuring more parents return to work after taking parental leave makes sense for businesses; it reduces recruitment costs and keeps valuable knowledge in the business. But the competition between companies has really stepped up in the past four years, as our research shows.

In sectors such as banking, professional services and technology, firms are now enhancing maternity pay to 26 weeks full pay.

This contrasts against minimum requirements for maternity pay which spans 39 weeks and pays only 90 per cent of the employee’s average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks.

Following this, the employee receives £151.97 or 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

Offering this benefit, Laura Moynihan, Senior HR Business Partner at Société Générale, states “is just one part of the holistic approach we like to take”.

She adds that “welcoming parents back after they’ve been on leave and making sure their return is as positive as possible for everyone involved is a key priority for us.”

However, the study highlights more could be done in the way of enhanced paternity leave, pointing to the continued need for better recognition of gender equality and family time.

A previous study conducted by the CIPD revealed over nine in 10 men (95 per cent) reported that workplace culture should be transformed to normalise men taking extended paternity leave.

Denise Priest continued:

Interestingly, the majority who offer enhanced paternity leave still offer just two weeks at full pay. However, 21 per cent now offer more than this, compared to only 9 per cent who offered more than two weeks in 2019. This could be a good area for companies looking to differentiate themselves from competitors and steal a march on talent.


*In June 2021, Bright Horizons gathered almost 700 responses from a range of sectors in the UK and Ireland.