"BECOMING a parent made me feel immensely proud to work for Aviva," said a York dad who benefited from his employer's equal parental leave policy.

The insurance giant became one of the first UK employers to roll out such a policy in 2017, and has revealed that more than 1,900 colleagues have since taken up the offer.

In 2020, 643 people took parental leave, including 99 per cent of new Aviva dads, with 84 per cent enjoying at least six months

The policy offers new parents in its UK business 12 months’ parental leave, with six months at full basic pay.

York-based Daniel Clark-Bland who has worked for Aviva since 2018 took time out in 2019 to adopt his son.

He said: "I returned from parental leave in April 2020, by which time we were in lockdown, so I haven’t been back to the office since July 2019. It was quite bumpy coming back to work. I had the usual post-paternity leave ‘bump’, but also a pandemic ‘bump’.

"Our childcare arrangements weren’t in place due to lockdown, so my husband and I had to adjust to working with our son at home. It was a triple whammy.

"There’s an inherent guilt that parents don’t talk about – that you’re being a bit rubbish both at work and at home. Aviva and my leader were exceptionally supportive; we arranged a working pattern that meant I could be a decent employee and dad. I worked mornings and my husband worked afternoons. Not many people I know outside of Aviva had the same beneficial set-up."

He said his son had been with his birth family and then foster family before being adopted, so routine was very important.

"Becoming a parent made me feel immensely proud to work for Aviva," said Daniel. "I am really grateful that my employer supported us through the many steps of adoption. There are months of meetings with social workers, a private medical appointment and two panel approvals, which all need to be made in person. Being able to attend these took a level of stress out of what is already a strenuous and emotional journey."

"I haven’t spoken to a single other person who hasn’t said ‘wow, they let you take how much leave?’

"It’s so important as an adoptive family – we were two strangers who swept in and had to build a real bond and rapport. Would that have been there after two weeks of statutory leave? How would we have made the call on which dad took the much longer adoption leave, potentially bonding more?"

The Aviva figures show an almost number of men and women now taking up the offer; mothers take almost 44 weeks and fathers take about 24 weeks.

Aviva dads are now taking three more weeks’ paternity leave compared to when the policy launched, suggesting men are becoming more comfortable taking time out of work when a new child arrives and such policies are becoming more established.

Aviva parents said being able to take extended parental leave during the pandemic was vital to support their partner and new child when unable to access the usual help from family, friends and parenting groups.