Lush co-founder Mark Constantine announces new, improved support for parents to a round of applause at the #LushSummit. The support includes six months’ full maternity pay to UK employees, four weeks' full-paid paternity leave, with the added commitment of 20 hours of childcare funding for 46 weeks (until government assistance kicks in) for those returning to full-time work. The announcements, made alongside financial director Kim Coles and European pay and benefits manager Aaron Mudd, were said by Mark to be “the bit he was proudest of".
“Hardened people", he explained “who I’ve never seen crying have been crying. When they spontaneously burst into tears you realise how much you’ve been asking for these people to pursue their careers when they can’t afford to.”
The commitment came after research showed that childcare in the UK was 40.9% of the average wage - making the return to work challenging for parents. In 2013, childcare minister Elizabeth Truss quoted a survey in Parliament that found that a nursery place for a child aged two or under was "77% more expensive than it was in 2003". A statement from The Family And Childcare Trust in 2016 confirmed: “The current system does not work, with too many children in poor quality settings and too many parents unable to go to work or take on more hours because they either cannot find or pay for childcare.”
It’s a stark contrast to countries like Sweden where each set of parents gets 480 days of paid parental leave per child, or Bulgaria, where mothers are entitled to a total of 410 days of paid maternity leave at 90% of the mother's gross salary.
Kim says, “We’ve had lots of groups looking at how we can support working parents better. There are really two sides to this: one is about supporting parents with new babies and then the second is how we can encourage them to come back to work and give them the support they need. We have focused on UK and Ireland employees and are going to be paying six months' full maternity pay, and going to fund 20 hours per week of childcare for 46 weeks (until the age of three when government schemes provide help) for those returning to full-time work. With the six months' full pay, that’s something that you can split with your partner in line with UK legislation.”
Aaron explains: “We did a lot of research and tried to look at a global policy around maternity and paternity pay. But some countries support it without us having to get involved. We had to ask how do we support people to have enough time off to spend valuable time with a new person in their life?
"You make a decision really about whether to look after your children or go back to work. Why should that be a choice?”