By Bella Webb
Burberry chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci dedicated the fashion house’s recent Autumn/Winter 2021 show to his mother. “Throughout my life, my mother has been this incredible force of nature. As a single parent, she raised me and my eight sisters with unfaltering purpose and pride,” he wrote for the show notes.
It was a touching sentiment followed by a significant announcement regarding Burberry’s benefits surrounding parental leave. The company also wrote in the notes that it had updated its global policy to 18 weeks of fully paid parental leave with an option for new parents to work 80 per cent of their normal hours at full pay for an additional four weeks upon their return, as of April 2020. Previous policies varied between countries. In the UK, where most of Burberry’s employees are based, maternity leave was 13 weeks and paternity or partner leave was two weeks. “On top of being the right thing to do, creating an industry-leading policy is hugely beneficial to retaining and attracting top talent,” says Burberry chief people officer Erica Bourne.
More progressive parental leave and support policies are becoming more common in fashion, an industry that employs 80 per cent women, according to the UN. While parental leave benefits vary by region, global fashion companies are in a position to put policies in place that benefit employees no matter where they’re located. Kering, which has offered new biological and adoptive mothers 14 weeks’ fully paid leave since 2017, extended the same offer to second partners worldwide in 2020 (they could previously only access five days’ paid leave). And Chanel implemented a global policy of 14 weeks’ fully paid leave for all parents welcoming a child by birth, surrogacy or adoption in 2018. More companies have published these policies in recent years, after a 2019 Mumsnet campaign in the UK found that only 15 FTSE 250 companies did so.
The benefits of agenda-setting, global policies are many, experts say. Boston Consulting Group diversity and inclusion partner Christin Owings says they can have a “halo effect” and become “a real differentiator in the war for talent”.