Diageo Commits Further to Support Gender Equality
To further its commitment to support gender equality, Diageo changed its parental leave policy in 2019 to offer all UK employees 52 weeks of leave with the first 26 weeks paid in full – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, and whether the employee becomes a parent biologically, via surrogacy, or through adoption.
About the company
Diageo is a global leader in beverage alcohol with a collection of over 200 brands across spirits and beer, which are sold in more than 180 countries. Diageo is headquartered in the UK.
Aligning to Inclusion & Diversity ambitions
Diageo’s policy was driven by a desire to reflect the totality of parenting while shaking up the cultural norms and policies around parental leave, which traditionally elevate and assign one parent as the primary caregiver by offering them significantly more paid time off. The decision matched Diageo’s I&D ambitions via decisive action to support employees, regardless of gender, to thrive at work – without compromising the experience of raising a young family. Gender equity is a huge part of Diageo’s I&D commitment and so it was vital that its family policy provided equal opportunities for all employees.
The policy shift in the UK was part of a global minimum standard set for all Diageo markets of 4-weeks paternity leave paid in full. A significant number of markets (including the UK) went beyond the minimum to offer 26 fully paid weeks of leave.
Managing business continuity and talent implications
To operationalise the new policy, it was critical to consider the various implications on business continuity and talent. This proved to be a balancing act, carefully managed through data analytics of the employee population, effective planning, diverse sources of short and long-term resourcing, and transparent conversations between employees and line managers about their parental leave plans. To manage some of this operational complexity, Diageo decided to offer flexibility in when employees could start their leave.
In turn, Diageo’s equal parental leave policy has become an important part of talent management, as extended parental absences create learning and development opportunities for other employees. Diageo has been able to identify successful backfills who can use temporary parental absences as ‘act in role’ opportunities, readying employees future role vacancies – in this way, family leave becomes an active part of succession planning, and supports I&D ambitions by offering all employees valuable experiences.
Socialising the new policy
Endorsement of the policy among senior leadership was critical in the launch as a signal of acceptance. Senior leaders have since been encouraged to take paid parental leave to ensure there are visible role models in the organisation.
These efforts have been coupled with active communication to ensure all employees are fully aware of the policy, and to encourage them to take up the offer with the guarantee that they will be well supported in their return-to-work transition. Diageo has seen very high uptake of its parental leave offer, with equal gender representation. The employee population who has accessed the new policy leave consists of a diverse group, with cuts across all age groups and across all levels, including senior management.
Employee feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the parental leave policy has been a key driver for retention, as well as passion and pride, especially as evaluated through Diageo’s annual employee feedback surveys.
The policy itself is robust so as to cover various scenarios and give clarity on applicability. However, it is also open to changes when new learnings and circumstances arise; employees are encouraged to speak up about their experiences to ensure the policy remains relevant for the population. One example of how this has played out is that Diageo recently enhanced its policy by including paid time off for pregnancy loss – to acknowledge varied parenting journeys.
Enablers to the policy
Diageo also offers support to parents returning to work, including the option of KIT (keeping in touch) days, active engagements around managing departure and return, parental coaching, and access to free independent counselling. The company has a robust flexible working philosophy which advocates that employees should use the office purposefully, rather than mandating employee attendance. This allows employees to reflect their personal lives, including their parenting role, in how they optimise their working hours to remain productive and engaged.
Going forward, Diageo is continuing employee engagement on where further changes could be made. This is combined with annual benchmarking with peer organisations to remain inspired around best practices. Diageo also works with global organisations such as Global Compact UN Women, and remains a signatory to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles to ensure it remains informed of best practice ideas on the global stage.
If you are considering a similar policy, Diageo offers the following suggestions:
- Set a strategic reference for why the policy is important – consider it in the context of your broader I&D agenda.
- Engage broadly with employees to understand what will have the biggest impact for them.
- Look externally to get inspired about best practice – Diageo engaged with other organisations when creating its policy.
- Consider how this policy might open new opportunities for your talent strategy.
- Aim to share best practice, influence others and inspire changes in industry.
“The new family leave policy was introduced while my partner was pregnant, so we both feel incredibly lucky to have this additional time to start our family. It gives me great pride to work for Diageo – introducing such inclusive, progressive and bold policies.” Stephen Harkin, Production Team Leader
“The time that parental leave offered to become a family of four was simply invaluable. It really was the best time of our lives, where I feel I developed into a stronger parent and partner, which has had significant long-term impact on us as a family.” Chris Bailey, National Account Manager
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