In a landmark step towards gender equality in the workplace, insurance firm Aviva has become the first UK firm of its kind to offer 6-months parental leave to all their staff regardless of regardless of gender, sexual orientation or how they became a parent (birth, adoption or surrogacy).

Mark Wilson, Aviva plc’s CEO said: “I want to live in a world where the only criteria for success is someone’s talent, not their gender. Treating parents equally will help make this happen.

We want Aviva to be a progressive, inclusive, welcoming place to work.”

The government currently offers a maximum of two weeks paternity leave, but also introduced rights to shared parental leave which became effective in 2015. This allowed parents to split their 52 weeks of leave between them (receiving parental leave payment for 39 of those weeks).

However, take-up rates have been low with fewer than 9000 parents sharing paternal leave in 2016. In contrast Swedish parental leave became gender-neutral in 1974 and although in the first year men took ~0.5 percent of all paternal leave, close to 90 percent of Swedish fathers now take paternity leave.

With the extension of shared parental leave as a right in the UK and firms such as Aviva extending parental leave rights, the UK is hoped to have similar success in the long-term.

Sarah Morris, Chief People Officer at Aviva, said: “This will transform the first year of parenthood for many families, giving them the opportunity to spend precious time together. It’s one of our commitments to build a more inclusive and diverse culture at Aviva.”

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality party, said that the new Aviva policy would “demonstrate to other businesses that they can provide fair and equal parental leave to all their staff, if they are willing to try”.

Equality in parental leave both recognises the role of fathers as carers and also women’s choices to participate on the labour market on equal terms with men.

As the UK government continues to make a concerted effort to reduce the gender pay gap, firms such as Aviva will help with workplace equality initiatives.