Expectant Norwich fathers sing praises of Aviva’s new parental leave policy

Expectant fathers Michael Winterburn (left) and David Lund, who work for Aviva in Norwich, will be t

Expectant fathers Michael Winterburn (left) and David Lund, who work for Aviva in Norwich, will be taking up the company's new shared parental leave policy. Picture: John Franklin/Aviva - Credit: John Franklin/Aviva

Attempts to 'level the playing field' for new mums and dads with shared parental leave have been hindered by a lack of awareness and low uptake.

The policy, introduced in April 2015, allows new parents up to 50 weeks of leave between them, of which the first 37 weeks are paid at statutory rate.

And research by HR trade body the CIPD shows take up of shared parental leave by working parents is extremely low, with only 5% of new fathers and 8% of new mothers opting for it in the 18 months following its introduction.

But insurance giant Aviva is hoping to encourage its use among its employees with a new policy giving all new parents 26 weeks leave on full basic pay – regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

The firm, which has its headquarters in Surrey Street in Norwich, is extending the policy to full time and part time staff and it will apply to parents who have given birth, adopted or chosen surrogacy.

Sarah Morris, chief people officer at Aviva, claimed it was 'one of the most ground-breaking, family-friendly policies offered by any employer'.

'It's time to equalise parental leave and create a level playing field for men and women who want to take time out from their career to spend with their family,' she said. 'This will transform the first year of parenthood for many families, giving them the opportunity to spend precious time together. It's one of our commitments to build a more inclusive and diverse culture at Aviva.'

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Aviva, a member of the EDP/EADT Top100 companies in Norfolk and Suffolk, also said if both parents work for the company they will each have their own entitlement to leave and pay – which can be taken at the same time.

The policy came into effect on November 19 for employees in the UK, Ireland, France, Singapore and Canada, with Aviva aiming to extend it to all of its businesses in the next year.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said: 'Employers like Aviva are leading the way in equalising their financial provision for working dads and promoting the flexibility such a policy can offer working parents. Organisations could improve take up of shared parental leave by ensuring its policy is as user-friendly, clear and generous as possible and by promoting it to all staff.'

'This will give us the flexibility we need'

Expectant fathers Michael Winterburn and David Lund, who work in the motor claims department at Aviva on Broadland Business Park, will be taking advantage of the new policy.

Michael said he and wife Rachel, who live on the outskirts of Norwich, had already been planning to take shared parental leave after their experiences with their first child, Esme.

'Last time it impacted my wife's career, and I didn't get the amount of quality time with my daughter that I would have liked,' he said.

'This will give us the flexibility we need as a family to do our best for the children's wellbeing.'

David Lund, from Norwich, said the shared parental leave offer would work well for him and wife Kang-ni, with whom he has a son, Fraser.

'This will work really well as I will be there to help her through the first six months of raising the baby,' he said.

'We're over the moon that the offer has changed so dramatically and that we were able to take full benefit.'