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Northern Gas Networks (NGN) hopes to ensure a Happy Father’s Day for all its expectant dads with a new paternity policy designed to give fathers more time with their babies.

NGN distributes gas to 2.7 million homes and businesses in the North East, Northern Cumbria and much of Yorkshire, covering cities and town including Leeds, Hull, Carlisle, Bradford, York, Huddersfield, Harrogate, Darlington and Newcastle. It also provides the region’s rapid response service when a smell of gas is reported.

Around 80% of the gas distributer’s workforce is male and almost 50% are aged 40 or under, with an average of 30 colleagues taking paternity leave each year.

Craig Skinner with his father Alan Skinner. Both father and son work for Northern Gas Networks.

The previous policy allowed dads up to two weeks’ leave, one at full pay and the second at statutory pay. However change came about after an internal study carried out by NGN’s Colleague Involvement Group showed the company’s new fathers were, on average, only taking half their allotted amount because of the cost to their pocket.

Around 85% of those that did take the full allowance then went on to take unpaid leave or holiday to extend their time with their baby.

NGN’s new paternity policy will guarantee four weeks’ leave at full pay and two additional weeks of unpaid leave. This flexible time can be taken at any time from two weeks before the birth and up to a year afterwards. In addition, colleagues can take paid time to attend two anti-natal sessions or their partner’s 12 and 20-week scans.

The group’s research showed time fathers spend with their newborns after the birth is invaluable, benefiting both family and career, with extra bonding leading to happier, more fulfilled colleagues returning to work.

And the increased cost to the business of implementing the change, around £70,000 per annum, would be counterbalanced by the benefits of a happier, more satisfied workforce.

The proposed new terms were put to NGN’s Chief Executive Mark Horsley, who agreed to the policy change immediately.

He said: “Helping colleagues balance the needs of their families with their career is extremely important to us because it creates a more fulfilled workforce and has great benefits for the wider business.

“This has to be one of the best UK paternity policies out there and definitely unusual for the utility industry. Ensuring dads have the flexibility to spend more time with their new arrivals without additional financial concerns means the workload can be lifted for mums and dads have extra bonding opportunity with their babies.

“It’s fantastic that this change has been driven by NGN colleagues themselves.”

The four weeks’ at full pay now ranks among some of the most generous paternity policies in the UK: M&S currently offers 10 days at full pay, Nat West two weeks of ordinary paternity leave and mobile phone provider 3 offers up to three weeks on full pay.

New dad Scott Wood was one of the first NGN fathers to benefit from the new paternity policy when he became a parent earlier this year.

He said: “Having four weeks of flexible paternity leave allowed me to spend significantly more time with our new baby at a time when my wife required support.

“Being able to take that amount of time without worrying about a detrimental financial impact to pay meant the time was more enjoyable and the discussion about affordability of additional leave was removed. More importantly, being there during the first few weeks of our child’s life was invaluable and a fantastic opportunity to spend time together as a family.”

To learn more about working at Northern Gas Networks and current job opportunities visit careers.northerngasnetworks.co.uk

Anyone that smells gas or suspects Carbon Monoxide should call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999. This line is in operation 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.