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Shared parental leave: are fund firms doing enough?

Shared parental leave: are fund firms doing enough?

The financial services industry has faced tough criticism for its ‘macho’ culture, striking lack of diversity and discrimination against women when they become pregnant.

Although it remains unclear how the investment world plans to address many of these issues, some asset and wealth managers are taking action to deal with the latter by offering shared parental leave, a step many think is key to ending sex-based discrimination.

One of the firms most open about its parental leave policies is Columbia Threadneedle, which has given its UK staff 20 weeks of maternity, adoption or shared leave at full pay since 2015.

It also offers employees of both sexes ‘reasonable paid time off during working hours for ante-natal care’ and ‘enhanced company maternity pay’ as part of its approach to flexible working.

So far 10 employees have taken shared parental leave, including multi-asset portfolio manager Matthew Rees and regulatory reporting manager Liebien Botha, both of whom felt the time spent with their little ones gave them renewed enthusiasm for the job.

Happy to participate

Head of multi-asset allocations Toby Nangle said he was happy one of his team members chose to leave for several months, adding that he would have loved for the scheme to have been in place when his three children were born.

Aviva is another firm that shares information about such policies publicly. In November 2017 the group rolled out a company-wide plan offering up to one year of leave, of which 26 weeks would be at full pay ‘for each parent employed by the company within the first 12 months of a child’s arrival’.

Based on stats released by the insurer a year after the scheme was introduced, a total of 496 UK employees (268 men and 228 woman) made use of the policy in the first 10.5 months.

This number reflects the entire group, however, and it is not known how many working in its investment arm have taken advantage of the opportunity.

Last May, Jupiter Fund Management also announced it would allow both men and women across its 520 staff six months of fully-paid parental leave. The firm explained that it also set up an online coaching service to help parents with the process of leaving and then returning to work.

As the scheme is still only a few months old, the asset manager was unable to comment on how many people have made use of these benefits. A spokesperson for the company said there had been a pleasing start to this new parental leave policy.

‘It’s been well received internally and uptake amongst staff has been positive. It has also been an interesting talking point externally, especially in the recruitment process, proving the point that policies such as this are important when trying to attract and retain new diverse talent to fund management,’ they added.

Not enough details

Others, such as Legg Mason and Schroders, said they offer employees shared parental leave, although none of the firms provided extensive details of their respective policies.

Quilter said it introduced a shared-parental leave scheme in 2015 following the legislation change by the government, but there are no available numbers on how many employees have taken advantage of this or how many weeks are at full pay.

However, according to human resources director Paul Hucknall, there has been a positive response to shared-parental leave from male colleagues.

Hucknall said that last year the firm also piloted a ‘career returner’ initiative aimed at people who have taken a break from work, primarily for women returning after having children. Aspiring to take advantage of this somewhat unexplored talent pool, the wealth manager is now using feedback from participants of the 2018 trial in order to consider best practice in the area and turn it into an ongoing programme.

Creating a supportive culture

A spokesperson from Legg Mason told Wealth Manager the asset manager strives to create a culture which supports the work-life balance for all employees and at all life stages.

‘In addition to paid parental leave, Legg Mason also offers a fully paid for breastmilk shipping service for mothers returning to work that are travelling for business,’ they added.

‘We recognise the importance of giving our employees flexibility and believe that every individual in every facet of our business is integral to the success of Legg Mason.’

No further details were provided.

Elsewhere, in its 2017 annual report, Schroders stated that it offers all employees ‘maternity and paternity coaching, shared parental leave and flexible working policies to help support employees with children,’ but the firm has not been able to offer more detailed information.

Many of the firms contacted by Wealth Manager were unavailable for comment or declined to share their policies on maternity, paternity or shared parental leave, saying they either do not disclose such information or that they could not comment on said policies as these were ‘under review’. 

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