How to equalise your parental leave benefits

Does your workplace have a paternity leave policy? Are you considering shared or equalised parental leave or adoption leave? This post features a company here in the UK that has made changes to its policies to benefit new parents.

The National House Building Council (NHBC) has agreed that all employees will be entitled to take up to a year’s leave, with the first 13 weeks at full pay. This applies whether you are giving birth or adopting.

NHBC is the UK’s leading provider of warranty and insurance for new build homes. It has a well-established history – more than 80 years – and has proud traditions that have been in the business since that time.

Now it has introduced a new way of supporting employees and their Internal Communications Manager, Sam Boniface, @Sambelina172 is here to share what they’re doing and what we can learn.

Sam is an ex-journalist who made the move to the comms world 10 years ago and has since worked in both agency and in-house roles, more recently extending her skillset to include social media management too. Sam says she loves storytelling, finding out about people, and a good cup of tea.

I’ll hand you over…

Why a company is introducing mat/pat leave

Times are changing and with that so is our culture. This started with refreshing our values to better represent the business and our people as it is today. Since then, several other people-led initiatives have been introduced – perhaps the biggest being the equalisation of maternity and paternity leave for all new parents.

NHBC has agreed that all employees will be entitled to take up to a year’s leave, with the first 13 weeks at full pay. And this applies whether you are giving birth or adopting.

We’ve also reduced the amount of time before you can qualify for this benefit from two years to 26 weeks, or around six months, which is also our probation period.

Zoe Mills, Senior Manager Strategy and Projects, was the project lead. She says: “This is huge for NHBC and communicating it took careful planning. As well as it being a big step change for some of our people, we also believe we are the first large employer in Milton Keynes to equalise our leave offering, so there was press and social media coverage to consider too.

So, we took a cross-departmental approach, between HR, internal communication, media and corporate affairs. We knew the timeframe between sign-off and the new rules coming into effect would be short, so we needed to be ready to move at a moment’s notice.”

How we communicated it
HR took the lead on engaging with key stakeholders, first tabling the proposition with our People and Culture Forum – a group of representatives from across the business, mostly working at manager or senior manager level. It prompted a lively debate that gave us great insight into how the idea might land with the wider business.

We soon saw the angle of having more flexibility to spend time with your family was the real pull for people and the business and societal benefits came second to that. Having this advanced knowledge meant we could plan our communications accordingly and were able to draft tailored emails and FAQs for our senior leadership team, so they were fully briefed before any communication went out to colleagues.

In a stroke of fate (or maybe genius, I’ll let you decide!) the proposal was signed off just days before Fathers’ Day.

With men in our organisation being the ones who’d be impacted the most by the changes, we put them at the centre of our communications.

Featuring our colleagues
We decided on a launch video featuring our own colleagues and their families – but had to do it without them knowing. So, just before the Father’s Day weekend, we put a call out for colleagues to send photographs of them enjoying their celebrations with their dads or with their own children. We told them it was for a “future comms project.”

Then we identified a soon-to-be new dad from our field team and arranged to meet him with his manager to discuss some new “HR initiatives” on camera.

Our colleagues really came through and we received some lovely photographs. From those we were able to create a picture montage with graphics over the top saying: “At NHBC we believe colleagues should have the flexibility to manage their family life. That’s why we’re equalising maternity and paternity leave for all new parents.”

We then surprised our soon-to-be dad with the news he could take 13 weeks paid leave to capture an authentic reaction on camera.

(Spoiler alert – a little underwhelmed and shocked, but when the news sank in very happy!) and added a brief interview with his manager, and a further explanation of the changes from our Head of HR.

When it was all edited together, the result was an emotive video that showed just how important family and flexibility is to our colleagues – and how we’re working to meet those needs. It was launched to all colleagues on email, with a supporting intranet article and thorough FAQs.

We also created a shorter version of the video to share on LinkedIn, and the media team created a press release to send to local media and relevant business titles. Our media and corporate affairs team engaged with our local MP Iain Stewart and encouraged positive endorsement from him, including inviting him to the office for a photoshoot with our soon-to-be-dad from our internal communications.

You can see the film below:

NHBC parental leave

Creating a buzz
Combining efforts created a real buzz both in and out of the office. We’re still calculating measurement across internal and external platforms but feedback has been positive with colleagues sending in messages of support for the initiative, including from new dads, with one saying: “As a recent father to a son, I think this new initiative is a huge credit to NHBC.”

Zoe added: “It’s been great to work on such an exciting initiative and I’m really proud to have been a part of it. Teams across NHBC came together to deliver a consistent and compelling communications campaign that really showed off NHBC in the best light, both internally and externally. I’m looking forward to what we might all do next!”

Post author: Sam Boniface.

Thank you Sam. I think this is a fantastic idea, thank you for sharing your story with us. What do you think? Could this work for your organisation? Do you have a story to share? As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or you can find me on Twitter @AllthingsIC.

Further reading: You can read more about NHBC via Sam’s previous article for my blog: How to refresh a company’s values.

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First published on the All Things IC blog 14 July 2019.

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