Making parental leave pay for SMEs: the founder who’s tackling a major career blocker for working parents

Hello, I’m Ed Gaze. I run an insurtech broker dedicated to helping startups launch innovative insurance solutions. I created JustParent because I saw the need to make enhanced parental leave both accessible and sustainable for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). One instance which really hit home was a friend who said she felt that she was being discriminated against for being a 30-something married woman when applying to tech start-ups. She stopped applying to SMEs and joined a Big Tech company instead. With 36,900 SMEs in the UK that employ 50-249 people each, the scale of this problem is huge and it’s clear something needs to be done, but the government is unlikely to be able to afford it.

So JustParent is the first ever insurance policy to cover UK businesses against unexpectedly large costs of enhanced parental leave pay, and in doing so, we are removing one of the factors that can result in parents, and especially women, facing unfair career penalties.

Why does parental leave pay need to be improved?

I recently came across an insightful blog by the FDM Group on the Tech Talent Charter website, discussing the Motherhood Penalty and its significant impact on women's careers. They outlined ten strategies for businesses to counter this issue, starting with the adoption of inclusive policies like comprehensive maternity and paternity leave. 

Unfortunately though, for many SMEs these benefits are often seen as risky and financially daunting. Nobody can predict who will have a baby, who’s partner will have one, or who will adopt in any given year. Therefore the cost of parental leave pay is a big unknown. A generous policy is great for hiring and retaining talent—but if a significant portion of the employees take it up then it could put the business under financial stress. I created  JustParent to help these businesses support their employees without breaking the bank.

The impact of parental leave on diversity and inclusion

Whilst better parental pay definitely has a powerful impact on women, it also impacts lots of other underserved groups too. It supports gender equality by allowing dads to take sufficient paid leave (something that’s often overlooked!), which in turn aids mums in returning to work and sharing caregiving responsibilities more equitably.

Fairer parental pay options will also enhance social mobility by making sure that employees from all walks of life can spend quality time with their new families without financial worries. This is about building healthier, more equitable workplaces where everyone can thrive.

Using our position to influence change

Something which I came across when talking to parents about the early days of maternity leave was how hard it can be when the babies are born via caesarean section. The birthing mother cannot drive or get around very easily for 6 weeks, and yet their partner is typically back at work by week 3. This is why we’ve mandated a minimum length of paternity leave pay of 6 weeks on our product. We don’t just want to provide a solution to parental pay, we also want to work alongside businesses to improve empathy and understanding of how they can improve parental inclusion, not just with us, but through their wider policies too.

Looking ahead

Hayley Budd, innovation underwriter at Apollo, and Ed Gaze, founder and CEO at JustParent

The right partners are key to bringing any idea to life, and I was lucky to find mine in Apollo and their innovation underwriter, Hayley Budd. 

I’m excited about the road ahead and the potential to drive real change in diversity and inclusion across the tech industry where the hunt for talent is particularly challenging. We’ve only just launched this product, so we’re in a learning phase - what works and what doesn’t? I’m keen to learn from the TTC community on how we can improve it, and what other challenges insurance can help with in the future!

To me, JustParent is a private sector solution to a national challenge that the government is never likely to solve completely. By enabling SMEs to offer competitive parental leave benefits, we help level the playing field, not only between small and large companies but also within the workforce. 

I like to imagine what things will be like in a decade. Perhaps by that time we will be one of many parental leave insurers, and equal parental leave pay will be the norm. This can only be good for the economy and family health, surely? Well, I can dream!

How JustParent works

We’ve created a new type of insurance which aims to make it simple for businesses with at least 25 employees to offer enhanced parental leave:

  • Submit Data: Just the basics—date of birth, gender, and salaries (no names required).
  • Decide on Leave: Choose how long you want to offer fully paid leave
  • Review Options: We’ll walk you through your insurance options, showing you the costs and what you’d be covered for.
  • Get Covered: The initial cost of any parental leave pay, up to the policy excess, will be paid by you. Above that, JustParent reimburses the employer for the basic salary of employees on parental leave.

This has been a guest blog for Tech Talent Charter by JustParent, who are a Signatory of the Tech Talent Charter. For more resources on Gender equality in the workplace, Parents and the Motherhood Penalty, please visit the Tech Talent Charter's D&I Open Playbook.