You need to be seen to be heard: the importance of family policy transparency

We lead increasingly busy and complicated lives, juggling our jobs with a variety of other responsibilities and commitments. Many of us struggle with complex childcare arrangements, or are grappling with the growing challenges posed by eldercare responsibilities - and we all have personal lives that can face difficulties such as the breakdown of a relationship, or periods of stress. At Direct Line Group, we recognise that balancing family and work is the biggest challenge facing many of our employees and, in order to support them, we strive to ensure that we offer a range of flexible working opportunities.

However, recent research commissioned by Direct Line Group has revealed that there is still a significant stigma about discussing the issue of flexible working and parental pay. Despite being high on people’s priority list - an overwhelming 74 per cent of respondents cited flexible working as quite or very important and 70 per cent said that paid maternity leave, on top of statutory pay, was important - we found that a quarter of people would be worried to ask about flexible working during a job interview. This rose to 30 per cent for 18 - 34 year olds; one in 10 of this age group were worried about asking a company what their parental leave and pay policy was. Indeed, only eight per cent of people said they have asked about a company’s parental leave and pay policy during an interview for a new job.

Clearly, offering a variety of flexible working and parental pay benefits is not, in itself, enough. If such policies are to be truly effective, businesses also need to be transparent about them - and our research indicates that this transparency is currently lacking. When researching a company that they would potentially like to work for, one in 10 of those questioned searched for information on maternity leave and pay but could not find it.

The situation is troubling. We believe that there is a very real risk that organisations could be missing out on attracting a wider talent pool because applicants are unsure of what they offer in terms of flexible working and parental pay. And it is for this reason that we are supporting the call for greater family policy transparency.

Last year, MP Jo Swinson tabled a bill that would require large businesses to publicise what they offer parents who wish to take shared leave after the birth of their child. At the time, she highlighted that more than 54,000 women a year lose their jobs because of discrimination around pregnancy and maternity, whilst noting that many fathers also worry about the impact that taking shared parental leave would have on their careers.

At Direct Line Group, we believe that people should feel safe to ask a business what their parental leave policy is – and at present, this is unfortunately not the case. Our research found that of those who didn't ask about it during an interview process, 11 per cent were worried that doing so would send the wrong message to their employer, and eight per cent were worried it would hamper their chances of getting the job.

We feel passionately that no one should feel discriminated against when interviewing for a new role, and there is a clear need and desire for reform across all businesses. Our research showed that three quarters of respondents think that businesses with over 100 employees should publish their parental leave and pay policies on their websites. Among those who didn’t ask about parental leave policies because they were worried about the potential impacts, 86 per cent said that if companies published the details on their website, they would not be so concerned about asking. This very simple measure can make an enormous difference.

At Direct Line Group, we want to support our people with what matters most to them. We have chosen to create an overarching lifestyle policy, promoting flexibility and choice, which is all encompassing and underpinned by diversity and inclusion. Our policies are simple and flexible, they’re aimed at supporting everyone. We understand that if people are to be able to bring their whole selves to work, they need us to provide policies that support and encourage their life interests and family commitments in addition to their work responsibilities.

We are really proud of the diverse and inclusive culture that our parental leave and flexible working policies have helped create. Indeed, our maternity and paternity benefits have a five star review on company comparison site, Glassdoor. However, we firmly believe that they have only been able to be so successful because we have also ensured that they are easy to find and understand.

Direct Line Group is one of 10 companies that have taken up the challenge thrown down by Jo Swinson MP to make our family policy fully transparent. We wholeheartedly encourage all businesses to follow this lead.

Click here to view Direct Line’s Group family policy in full.