New parents working at the University of Exeter will be entitled to six months’ fully paid leave from the first day of their employment under a programme launched this month.
Beyond the first two weeks, which a mother is required to take off, the leave can be shared between parents, regardless of whether the mother works at the institution. They are then entitled to take a further 13 weeks’ leave on statutory pay.
In addition, partners will be entitled to take six weeks’ paternity leave.
Exeter said that the decision to grant staff the right to parental leave immediately, rather than requiring them to complete several months’ service before they are eligible, had been taken with a view to attracting leading researchers to join the institution from its competitors. Early career researchers, who typically move between several universities, are likely to be key beneficiaries.
Exeter claims that its parental leave package is the most generous among Russell Group universities – and among the most progressive in the UK public sector.
Jacqui Marshall, Exeter’s deputy registrar, said that the institution wanted to demonstrate “the depth of [its] commitment to family-friendly working”.
“Gone are the days when staff – including early career researchers – feel they have to choose between having children and career progression,” she said. “This package of measures shows not just a long-term commitment by the University of Exeter to our employees, but our dedication to investing in staff at crucial periods of their career.”
The new rights also apply to parents who adopt. In addition, the university announced that it will provide five days’ paid leave a year for women undergoing fertility treatment – and two days’ leave for their partners.
Exeter staff were previously entitled to maternity, adoption and shared parental pay for eight weeks, followed by 16 weeks on half pay, plus statutory maternity pay.
A study published earlier this year found widespread variation in the generosity of maternity leave packages on offer at UK universities, with research-intensive institutions more likely to offer long periods of fully paid leave.