Hamilton extends paid parental leave

  • Jonathan Reiss: executive sponsor for diversity and inclusion at Hamilton Insurance Group (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Jonathan Reiss: executive sponsor for diversity and inclusion at Hamilton Insurance Group (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Hamilton Insurance Group has introduced a new parental/caregiver leave policy that reflects the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The Bermudian-based re/insurer will grant five months’ paid maternity leave for mothers/primary caregivers under the new policy, up from the company’s former policy of three months’ leave, and ten weeks’ paid paternity leave for fathers/secondary caregivers, up from two weeks.

Jonathan Reiss is president, strategic partnerships, at Hamilton as well as executive sponsor for diversity and inclusion. He said the changes are the first step towards a gender neutral benefit that provides an equal amount of leave for both parents/caregivers, thereby addressing issues of “unconscious bias” that can have an impact on employees.

The new policy, Mr Reiss said, is a big step forward for the company and underlines its diversity and inclusion statement: “Open minds open doors”.

He said: “Hamilton is committed to an inclusive environment where all employees feel valued and respected and have an equal opportunity to succeed.

“When people hear about Hamilton, they think of a company that is progressive, and treats employees fairly and takes diversity and inclusion very seriously. This policy is aligned with that. We walk the talk.”

Mr Reiss, whose speech championing diversity in the re/insurance industry at last year’s Bermuda Captive Conference was widely praised, said Hamilton set up a “diversity and inclusion forum” in early 2018.

Comprised of ten employees — five women and five men — from all levels of the company’s Bermuda and London offices, the forum meets periodically to generate ideas about the diversity and inclusion objectives they wish the company to achieve.

The first priority set by the forum was an introductory workshop on unconscious bias to educate staff about the impact that it can have in the workplace.

In the context of the parental or caregiver leave benefit, overcoming unconscious bias means valuing each parents’ contribution to childcare equally, and recognising the impact that unequal leave has on a woman’s prospects of advancing her career to senior executive levels.

Practically speaking, it means recognising that neither men or women are more important in a company, and consequently granting equal leave to both parents/caregivers.

Mr Reiss said: “You have to make sure that paternal leave is sufficiently disruptive to a person’s workload in order to take a bite out of unconscious bias. When you get two weeks, you tend to take a half-day here and there. There is no disruption to the workload.”

The forum researched issues around the parental/caregiver benefit for six months before recommending that a gender-neutral 20 weeks’ leave be granted to all parents/caregivers.

However, a London-based staff member who is an accountant carried out an actuarial analysis based on staff demographics at Hamilton in order to discover the financial implications of such a policy.

Based on the results, the conclusion reached was that such a move, in one step, could have a significant negative impact on the company’s core operations taking into account the size of the company and its stage of development.

Still, the new policy far exceeds the requirements of employers under the island’s employment legislation.

Bermuda law provides for eight weeks’ paid maternity leave. In January, that will increase to 13 weeks’ paid leave, provided certain conditions are met, while paternity leave will be granted for the first time in the new year with men given five days’ leave.

Mr Reiss said Hamilton’s executive leadership team has committed to reviewing the company’s new leave policy in two years’ time.

He added: “I am fairly optimistic that when we review the policy in two years we will make a further change to make the policy gender neutral.”

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Published Nov 19, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 18, 2019 at 11:56 pm)

Hamilton extends paid parental leave

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