Friday 2 July 2021 5:45 pm

Lockdown sparks more leave and paid benefits for some working parents

Locking down with family during the pandemic has pushed companies and countries to switch up their family policies, as workers revaluate their priorities.

The pandemic made 60 per cent of parents realise they had not spent enough time with their children, while seven out of 10 parents now plan to change their working life post-lockdown, according to a survey by children’s holidaymaker PGL.

General Mills, the company behind Cheerios and other cereals, this week expanded its support for families, particularly those experiencing major life changes.

The food giant will now allow fathers, same-sex couples and those adopting to take up to six months of fully paid leave.

The strengthened policies also include flexibility around fertility matters, pregnancy loss support and will allow carers to request up to six months of unpaid leave.

But General Mills is not alone in recognising that its worker’s priorities have changed. Retail chain Co-op has this month begun offering pregnancy loss support, as well as banking app Monzo in May and Channel 4 in April.

Companies, like Asda, UBS and Deutsche Bank, which have all welcomed hybrid working this month, are also inadvertently supporting those with families in spending more time with their children.

For many workers and bosses, the decision to give hybrid working the green light has been about finding a balance – where workplaces are not abandoned, but the benefits of remote working are not either.

And with an increasing number of firms adopting the new work style, it appears lockdown has sparked a shift in bolstering support for working parents and parents-to-be.

“As a parent, I understand the joy but also the huge disruption and challenges that a new addition to the family can present,” managing director of General Mills UK, Ben Pearman, said.

After more than a year of juggling work and family when office desks turned into dining tables, workers and bosses alike have been able to regularly see their children beyond the school run and bedtime.  

General Mills’ Northern Europe human resources director, Aaron Lamers, said: “It’s been such a tough time recently, so it’s great to enable our new parents to be together with their families more from the start.

“This is important because we have found that our men, in particular, have not been taking parental leave – under this policy they can now enjoy and play a more active role in the life-changing journey of their child’s first year.”

‘The one benefit of lockdown’

France yesterday doubled its paid paternity leave for fathers and the second parent in same-sex couples from 14 to 28 days.

Parents have spent a near two extra hours a day with their children over the course of three national lockdowns, the PGL study added.

TV personality and parent of two, Jeff Brazier said: “I’ve spent more time than ever with my kids over the past year and the extra time together has helped us bond and made me really understand the pressures they are going through in life as teenagers, and I hope for many parents getting closer to their kids has been one benefit of lockdown.”