Unilever – Finalist 2023, Best for supporting fertility and pathways to parenthood
Unilever’s aim is to ease any conflict between work and personal life so that everyone can explore pathways to parenthood, reflected in their inclusive family-friendly policies and supportive environment.
Unilever have merged maternity and adoption policies to ensure all parents have the same entitlements. Under the Maternity and Adoption Policy all employees, including those parents through surrogacy, are entitled to 16 weeks enhanced pay, rising significantly once employees have two years of service 15 weeks prior to their due date. Paternity leave has been renamed Partner Leave to be inclusive of same-sex relationships and is enhanced to three weeks. The Shared Parental Leave Policy enables parents, regardless of gender, to share the enhanced entitlements.
Fertility and loss
A Fertility Policy was introduced in recognition of the prevalence of fertility challenges and entitles eligible employees to up to £15,000 of fertility treatment through private medical support, where applicable. Fertility appointments are offered as paid leave and can be taken at short notice. As the policy was only introduced in 2021, efforts have been made to gather anecdotal evidence of the employee experience in order to keep evolving the support on offer.
Under the Pregnancy Loss policy, all appointments relating to baby loss are taken as paid leave. If the baby loss occurs after 24 weeks employees qualify for their maternity, adoption, shared parental or partner leave. The policy was promoted through an event with a charity partner, Tommy’s, to raise awareness of the support available.
A breadth of initiatives aims to support families at all stages. The importance of flexibility is reflected in the culture. Hybrid working and formal flexible working arrangements are on offer, as well as a flexible working ‘panel’ that reviews and challenges requests that may have been rejected by a line manager. The Employee Assistance Programme offers relevant support to employees. Where long periods of leave are needed, Unilever has a career break scheme which enables eligible employees to focus on family-related priorities whilst allowing them to benefit from continuous service if they return.
Company-wide training is offered to inform and educate around fertility issues. Support initiatives focus on conversations such as the ‘Time to Talk’ teams who operate as mental health first-aiders, with some having recently been trained as ‘Fertility Allies’ so that they are better equipped in this area. Awareness raising events also help to bring the subject out into the open, for example the ‘Let’s Talk About Fertility’ panel with experts from charities including The Fertility Network and BUPA.