Employers should offer same-sex couples same parental leave rights as others, workers say

This is an image of an LGBTQ couple with their child in a picture frame. In the background is an office setup that is creatively overlayed with a prism.

A new survey has highlighted the need for employers to make parental leave policies more inclusive.

The survey, published by the HR and employment platform Remote, found that 47 per cent of employees believe that an inclusive parental leave policy involves a gender-neutral approach.

The survey of 5,700 full-time employees across 11 international markets – along with over 500 employers in the UK and US – explored experiences of parental leave among workers.

More than half of those surveyed believe that an inclusive parental leave policy means same-sex couples having the same leave as opposite-sex couples, and a further 53 per cent believe it means giving adoptive couples the same amount of leave as birth parents. 

In the UK, those who fit the criteria of an “eligible mother” are legally entitled to take up an entire year off work, with the employer paying Statutory Maternity Pay – or 90 per cent of their weekly average earnings before taxes. The legal minimum for “eligible fathers” is 1 or 2 weeks off work, with the same pay percentage of 90 per cent of their weekly earnings, or £172.48 per week, (whichever is lower).

The need for private in-work benefits to include gender-neutral language within parental leave policies has increased recently, as more same-sex couples are adopting than in previous years.

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Government statistics in England show one in six adoptions in 2022 were to same-sex couples, which is the greatest proportion ever on record. Male same-sex couples who recently adopted would be indirectly discriminated against, given that they would have significantly less leave compared to female same-sex couples.

The survey also noted that 39 per cent of employees think their company should do more to make their parental leave policies more inclusive.

The business case for LGBTQ-inclusive parental leave

The survey highlights the importance of inclusive policies that cater to the needs of LGBTQ+ parents – such as paid time off for adoption or surrogacy – along with the work flexibility to attend appointments like adoption meetings. Failing to provide such policies inadvertently perpetuates a form of discrimination against parents within this community.

Remote’s research outlined the core benefits employers recognise when offering more inclusive parental policies. Seventy per cent of employers from the UK and the US said that having inclusive leave policies in place for parents helps attract and retain diverse employees. A further 66 per cent of employers said these policies help to attract and retain top-performing employees. 

This is an image of a same sex couple with their child. The image is seen on a screen of a macbook pro. The computer is sitting on a desk.
Parental policies that are written in a gender-neutral language support LGBTQ+ parents. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

Not having an inclusive parental leave policy and culture could actively harm a company’s progression. Forty-seven per cent of employees surveyed said they would decline a job offer if the company’s policies didn’t meet their expectations.

Furthermore, a study from the US in 2021 highlighted that more than one-third of LGBTQ+ employees have left a job because of how they were treated by their employer based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Remote’s survey also revealed that employers find inclusive parenting policies promote a better gender balance when it comes to caregiving at home along, with equity within the workplace. This in turn boosts company culture, and ultimately leads to more innovation and a better business outcome.

Ways to make parental leave more inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees

Provide parental leave to everyone, not just longtime employees

All employees should have the right to leave and support – including new hires. Managers should make an effort to comprehend the family situation of new team members and provide equal parental support.

Offer flexible working

Loosening work schedules provides every employee with a greater amount of flexibility. This is especially valuable for parents seeking to work around commitments such as school pick-ups, medical appointments and adoption-related meetings. It is important that flexible working is offered equally to everyone and that the “primary caregiver” assumption isn’t based just on gender.

Give equal time off for adoptive parents 

Adoptive parents having the same amount of leave as any other parent is crucial to parental leave inclusivity. Ensuring that new parents who adopt are written into policies prevents uncertainty and questions about their leave entitlement. An equal adoptive parent policy could also encourage more LGBTQ+ couples to consider adoption.

This is an image of a same sex couple and their child in a picture frame. The frame is sitting on a background of a desk.
Data from Remote’s survey highlighted the business case for providing parental leave policies that are friendly for LGBTQ+ employees. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

Offer a transition period

A transition period allowing new parents to move to part-time work for one to two weeks before and after parental leave will help employees adjust to new routines at home and work-life balance mindsets. Using gender-neutral language will make all parents aware of the benefits available to them. 

Offer assistance with childcare costs as a benefit

Childcare costs can be an expensive challenge for all parents, with 25 per cent of Remote’s survey saying they struggle to afford childcare costs. Employers should consider offering childcare stipends or allowances. Providing financial support will keep parents employed and productive.

Offer inclusive breastfeeding policies

Breastfeeding is an important component of parenting for many. Strong breastfeeding policies written in gender-inclusive language will signpost support to those who wish to breastfeed. This type of policy includes flexibility for breastfeeding breaks and access to comfortable non-gendered breastfeeding rooms for those needing to pump or feed while at work.