Drinks giant Diageo announces shared 26-week parental leave

One of Scotland’s largest employers is set to introduce a groundbreaking shared leave scheme ensuring parents will have time to spend with new family members before returning to work.

James Ashall and son Teddy Ashall

More than 3,000 Scottish employees of drinks giant Diageo will be eligible for the same fully-paid 26 weeks off, retaining benefits and bonuses regardless of gender or sexual orientation, the company has announced.

The firm – which recently submitted plans to create a £150 million whisky visitor experience at the former House of Fraser building in Edinburgh – said the move was necessary to create a “fully inclusive and diverse workforce”.

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The scheme will also be open to those who become parents by surrogacy or adoption, the company added.

Mairéad Nayager, chief HR officer at Diageo said: “True gender equality in the working world requires fundamental changes to a broad range of working practices, including a shake-up of the policies and cultural norms around parental leave. This announcement is about matching ambition with action and supporting all of our colleagues – regardless of gender – to experience the joy of raising a young family, while continuing to thrive at work.”

James Ashall, Diageo CEO of movement to work, took eight months leave after the birth of son Teddy, allowing wife Paula to return to work.

He said it offered a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to spend time with his young child, adding: “It just made sense for us as a family, to see your children grow, to help them grow and support them is a once in a lifetime chance.

“It can so significantly impact your choice if your employer is actively supporting people into parental leave.”

Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt said: “Shared parental leave gives both mums and dads the chance to spend quality time with their child in the important first months of their life, creating a bond that will last a lifetime. Action like this is exactly what we are encouraging to empower every woman in the UK to achieve their potential.”