People20th July 2023

Introducing ClearBank’s new family leave policies

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Leading the People function at ClearBank is incredibly rewarding. Our colleague focus and values mean we’re always intent on finding solutions and continuing to make ClearBank a great place to work.

Even then, there are certain moments that you take immense personal and professional pride in. One of those occurred recently when we introduced a new set of enhanced family leave policies that were the culmination of months of hard work. This was also a deeply personal project for me and many others involved.

With the introduction of this additional support for our colleagues in their parenthood journey, we also committed to talking more openly about these challenging topics. Something that is not easy to do.

I debated whether to share my journey in entering parenthood, which, like many, was not easy. In 2020, I suffered baby loss at a relatively late stage of pregnancy, and the support ClearBank provided me was beyond what I could have ever asked for. I was afforded the time to heal physically and mentally, something I will always be grateful for. There are so many things that go through one’s mind when a loss is suffered, or a young baby needs extra care, but wondering what their employer will provide them shouldn’t be one of them. I was determined that we’d deliver similar support and care to all ClearBank employees because I knew, from my own experience, the impact it would have.

Many firms are looking at their policies to retain employees and position themselves as a fair and equitable workplace to attract new talent, which is critical in today’s working environment. At ClearBank, we are thinking beyond 'traditional' benefits and want to also support employees through major life events, something that delivers meaningful results for our people.

So, we wanted to share our process with the community to explain how we arrived at our new policies – not only for transparency but perhaps to help other organisations thinking about doing something similar.

We started by re-evaluating our policies through a set of core principles:

  • Ensuring we do what works best for our people.
  • Going above and beyond.
  • Doing what's right.
  • Making it work globally.

This seems common sense, but for a rapidly scaling business, what ‘worked best’ at 50 employees isn’t the same at 500. When it came to other aspects, such as going above and beyond, we conducted external research and internal discussions to create a benchmark we could measure our work against.

There were other considerations, such as how policies would work when ClearBank scales internationally in the coming months and years. This meant ensuring our policy framework would be flexible enough to consider different laws and cultural norms.

How we explored our options

From the start, we knew we didn’t have all the answers. ClearBank has been built from genuine teamwork, and how we approached this work was no different.

Phase one involved gathering data by researching competitors and best practices across different sectors around what they pay, for how long and any additional support or services they offer. With that data, we could already see that we had work to do to achieve parity even before we considered our stated intent of going above and beyond.

From there, we conducted a series of focus groups with ClearBank parents to ensure we had a mix of quantitative and qualitative data points. Finally, we examined the statutory requirements across Europe and beyond to future-proof the framework for our growing business. This futureproofing gives us a head-start in supporting all ClearBank families and colleagues trying to start a family, regardless of where they are based.

What did we learn?

While the comparative data was a useful first step, the real insight came from the internal focus groups, where our employees openly shared their personal stories from previous employers and offered ideas and invaluable advice on the types of support parents need.

Many explained how when they became parents, they had used annual leave entitlement to get the additional time off they felt they needed. We were also aware that family leave policies, including those at ClearBank, traditionally had centred on standard maternity and paternity leave and very little else.

The reality, of course, is far more nuanced. You have to consider, for example, the different needs around the adoption process because it can be incredibly complex. It was also clear that policies around surrogacy and IVF/fertility treatment were needed as there is no statutory support available. Whatever we implemented had to reflect the intricacy of those procedures, their timelines and various phases of medical appointments, treatments and recovery time so that employees feel supported.

Enhancing our leave packages

Following the feedback sessions, we knew a blanket policy wouldn’t reflect the varied needs of our employees.

We wanted to go above and beyond our legal entitlements to our employees, so we have also introduced specific policies for miscarriage, neonatal and fertility to support any ClearBank employee through their journey into parenthood.

With that in mind, the policies we’ve enhanced are:

Mothers / Primary Caregivers

  • Maternity and Adoption leave: ClearBank offers 26 weeks at full pay, followed by 13 weeks at statutory pay and 13 weeks unpaid. This is both a significant improvement on the 14 weeks at full pay, 25 weeks at statutory pay and 13 weeks unpaid we had previously offered and statutory requirements.

Partners / Secondary Caregivers

  • Paternity and Adoption leave for partners: ClearBank offers 6 weeks at full pay with the ability to split into blocks that can be taken at any point in the first year. This compares to 2 weeks full pay under the previous policy and is far above statutory requirements.

Either Parent

  • Shared Parental Pay (ShPP): ClearBank offers 26 weeks at full pay, 13 weeks at statutory pay and 13 weeks unpaid. This is another improvement on the statutory requirement of up to 37 weeks of pay at 90% of your average weekly earnings.
Introducing new policies

Our research and employee consultation also revealed significant gaps where there was little to no statutory assistance. Rather than wait for guidance, we have introduced the following new policies to ensure we can fully support our employees’ needs. These are:

  • Neonatal leave: There is no statutory entitlement for when your baby is hospitalised after birth. We have introduced a new policy offering up to 12 weeks at full pay for parents whose babies require additional hospital support in those first weeks. While the UK government is looking to introduce statutory provisions around this in 2025, we felt it was necessary to provide this now and to go above and beyond what the law is likely to be. This will close a huge gap in leave provision for parents who need to be with their children at such a critical time.
  • Miscarriage leave: There is also no statutory entitlement if a miscarriage occurs in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, with statutory maternity leave only applicable after that period. ClearBank’s new policy is 10 days full pay for either parent if a miscarriage happens within this first 24 weeks of pregnancy, with the option to take additional time off under the enhanced Sick Leave policy if extra time is needed. We felt our policy had to offer enhanced support to expectant parents at any stage and at such a difficult time.
  • Fertility treatment leave: Another new policy where ClearBank is offering reasonable time off as required for either parent to attend appointments and adjustments to working patterns for those undergoing treatment. Again, there is no statutory requirement, but without this policy, we felt it would unfairly penalise employees exploring fertility treatment but were concerned about the lack of support.

In addition to the upgraded and new policies, we have partnered with From Babies with Love, a non-profit organisation where 100% of profits are donated to orphaned and abandoned children. It is an award-winning social enterprise providing homes, education, healthcare, therapy and support to children who need it, anywhere in the world. They will send out sustainably sourced and organic gifts to new parents (using organic cotton, post-consumer upcycled plastic, and FSC wood), on behalf of ClearBank.

Our colleagues, the Executive and HR team and I are immensely proud of the new family leave policies for what they deliver and because they were developed in collaboration with our employees based on the personal experiences they shared throughout the process. Of course, we remain mindful that this is not the end of the journey.

We'll also continue to share updates and changes, hoping to inform and inspire other People teams tackling the same issues.

Nadine Adams is Head of Human Resources at ClearBank, where she leads the team dedicated to supporting our employees and ensuring our culture is always at the forefront in everything we do.

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