Case study

Paternity leave and pay

Managing paternity leave and pay - Feather Brooksbank

(Feather Brooksbank has been rebranded as Carat Edinburgh)

Feather Brooksbank is an award-winning media planning and buying agency with offices in Edinburgh and Manchester. With around 100 employees, the company's family-friendly culture and policies have contributed to its low staff turnover and its recent inclusion in the Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For rankings. Around a third of the company's 100 employees are men, so a comprehensive paternity policy is an important part of the mix. Here, Human Resources Director Carol Irvine explains the thinking behind the policy and how it works in practice.

What I did

Formulate a policy

"People are our most valuable asset and we believe in treating them well. We decided to offer an enhanced paternity leave and pay package to provide a balance to our enhanced maternity leave provision and to reflect our company culture, which places a strong emphasis on work-life balance.

"We offer two weeks' leave on full pay and a third on half pay, to be taken within eight weeks of the birth. Employees can also elect to have any unpaid parental leave deductions spread over a 12-month period to make the cost easier to manage. Our policy provides more than the statutory minimum, but we believe the additional cost to the business is well worth it. We consider it an investment in our people that helps towards motivating and retaining staff.

"Staff feedback certainly indicates that male employees and their families really value our policy, particularly as we are based in big cities, so many of our employees don't have relatives close by to help out in those first few weeks with a newborn."

Communicate with staff

"As with all employment policies, it's important that staff are aware of what's on offer and of their responsibilities. We include the paternity policy in our staff handbook and mention it during inductions. I also send the details to expectant fathers at the point when they notify us of the pregnancy.

"We do expect employees to follow the proper notification requirements, as laid out in the staff handbook, so that we can plan around the absence and put paternity pay arrangements in place. However, we've found that being flexible and communicating freely is the key - we try to accommodate employees' needs wherever possible and they repay us by doing their utmost to take the business' needs into account when planning their leave."

Manage the leave

"We manage paternity leave in exactly the same way that we manage annual leave, with regard to forward planning and arranging appropriate cover during the employee's absence.

"Most of our new fathers take two or three weeks - if you think about it, that's only around the length of a summer vacation, so it's not a big issue for the business when planned properly. If they want to, new fathers can even add a period of parental leave or annual leave to the end of their paternity leave, although in practice they tend not to, preferring to save it for later in the year.

"Again, flexibility is important - you have to expect the occasional last-minute change of plan where a new baby is concerned."