Bright Horizons: Top Firms Ramp up Parental Leave Benefits in Battle for UK Talent

  • 79% of professional employers now offering enhanced maternity pay, vs 57% in 2017, according to survey of tier-one companies
  • Some firms now offering 26+ weeks paid parental to mothers and fathers, as economy emerges from Covid crisis and companies strive to retain top staff
  • Survey reveals fresh evidence of firms overhauling their hybrid working practices following Covid lockdowns
  • Paternity pay is increasing: 21% now enhance more than 2 weeks, up from 9% in 2019
  • But paternity support still lags behind maternity or shared parental leave, pointing to continued need for better recognition of gender equality and family time
  • Survey compiled by Bright Horizons, supplier of work and family solutions to UK corporates
  • Nearly 700 organisations gave input on their parental leave policies from sectors including Financial Services; Legal & Professional services; Digital; Technology & Telecoms; Engineering & Construction; and Hospitality, Travel & Leisure in the UK and Ireland

LONDON--()--Leading companies in the UK and Ireland are dramatically escalating their parental leave benefits in the ongoing fight to recruit and retain top talent.

Almost four-fifths (79%) of top-tier employers now enhance Maternity (and Adoption / Surrogacy) Leave pay beyond the statutory minimum, according to the Bright Horizons Parental Leave Benchmark, the most authoritative survey of its kind in the UK.

This is an increase of 22 percentage points since a previous issue of the Benchmark in 2017 (57%). 67% of employers currently enhance Paternity or Partner Leave pay, compared with just 44% offering this in 2017. And those offering enhanced Shared Parental Leave pay have almost doubled in the past four years, from 25% in 2017 to 48% in 2021.

The most frequent enhancement of Maternity / Adoption pay is now 26 weeks’ full pay among sectors such as banking, professional services and technology. In sectors where talent retention is key and packages are at the top end, companies are coupling generous enhanced pay with programmes of coaching, childcare and other supports.

Employers cite a number of reasons for increasing the generosity of these offers, including a desire to encourage staff retention, post-leave career progression and satisfaction, and to reduce recruitment costs. The experience of lockdown has also prompted organisations to re-think ways of helping staff to balance their work and family lives.

Laura Moynihan, Senior HR Business Partner at Société Générale, said: “An important part of our benefits package is the 26 weeks of enhanced maternity adoption or surrogacy leave pay we offer, but this is just one part of the holistic approach we like to take. Welcoming parents back after they’ve been on leave and making sure their return is as positive as possible for everyone involved is a key priority for us.”

Denise Priest, Director of Employer and Strategic Partnerships at Bright Horizons, said: “It’s no secret that ensuring more parents return to work after taking parental leave makes sense for businesses; it reduces recruitment costs and keeps valuable knowledge in the business. But the competition between companies has really stepped up in the past four years, as our research shows. Interestingly, the majority who offer enhanced paternity leave still offer just two weeks at full pay. However, 21% now offer more than this, compared to only 9% who offered more than two weeks in 2019. This could be a good area for companies looking to differentiate themselves from competitors and steal a march on talent.”

Chris Thevenot, Regional Head of HR at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, added: “We’re committed to supporting our employees no matter what stage of life they are at. So we have expanded our enhanced maternity, adoption or surrogacy leave pay as well as placing emphasis on leave for partners, including shared parental leave and paternity/partner leave. It is also important to us to ensure there are other supports for parents in place, like access to emergency childcare, as well as parental transition coaching and resources for them, and their managers, to help their return.”

Download the full Bright Horizons Parental Leave Benchmark report here.

About the research

In June 2021, Bright Horizons gathered almost 700 responses from a range of sectors in the UK and Ireland. The five sectors with highest representation were: financial services (11%); legal and professional services (11%); digital, technology and telecoms (10%); engineering and construction (7%); and hospitality, travel and leisure (6%). Data was gathered through a range of sources, including Bright Horizons’ clients and wider database of contacts, as well as being distributed by our partners: HR DataHub, WiHTL, Legal Magazine and our conference partners HRD, HR Grapevine, Flexpo, and via LinkedIn.

About Bright Horizons®

Bright Horizons® provides best in class work+family solutions. Alongside the provision of great childcare solutions, today it is dedicated to supporting employers to enable the holistic combination of work and family; ensuring their working parents and carers are amongst the most engaged and productive members of any team. The business now globally encompasses approximately 1,000 nurseries, and over 10,000 emergency childcare and back-up care providers. With operations in the US, UK, India and the Netherlands, we specialise in supporting multi-national clients. We work with around 400 clients in the UK, and more than 1,300 of the world’s leading employers globally, providing a full range of work and family supports.

Its bespoke services address the practical, wellbeing and cultural needs of organisations and individuals. With operations in the US, UK, India and the Netherlands, Bright Horizons® specialise in supporting multi-national clients. Bright Horizons® has a strong commitment to corporate sustainability, which is approached through the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

Bright Horizons® acts as a trusted partner, provider, and advisor on strategies for combining work+family. This plays a key part in attracting, engaging, and retaining clients’ talented employees. For more information, go to

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Media enquiries
Palatine Communications: Conal Walsh / Amy Murphy

Release Summary

UK professional firms dramatically have improved parental leave benefits vs 2017, landmark survey shows, but progress still needed on paternity leave


Media enquiries
Palatine Communications: Conal Walsh / Amy Murphy