Diversity & Inclusion in Irish Life

Diversity and inclusion – particularly around gender – is something lots of companies want, but haven’t necessarily implemented policies to make it happen. From closing the pay gap to offering competitive parental leave to both sexes, there’s lots to be done when it comes to making a workplace truly inclusive. Simone Macleod-Nairn has been Chief People Officer and Group Head of Corporate Resources here at Irish Life since October 2017, and in that time has made some incredible strides towards equality.

Importance of Diversity

Travelling the world as part of previous roles was invaluable to Simone. “One of my key learnings is never to underestimate the importance of culture and people”, she begins. “You can have the best strategy in the world, but if you don’t take the local culture into consideration, you won’t be successful.” She says that she sees true potential in the fact that Ireland has become a real melting-pot of nationalities, cultures and skillsets. “Irish people are very forward-thinking, passionate, and have a real ‘can-do’ attitude. Because we’re so diverse and open to other countries coming in, from an economic perspective we’re uniquely positioned to lead innovation well into the future.”

Live Your Life

As part of her role here at Irish Life, Simone has overseen the implementation of a number of policies that show employees they’re truly valued. “Work-life balance doesn’t really exist”, she notes. “You can’t be at work and then be at home; you have to be able to bring your whole self in every day.” As such, we implemented a strategy called ‘Live Your Life’ last year. It allows employees two extra days annual leave a year for ‘life events’ – these can be anything from “marriage, moving house, or a family crisis”, says Simone. We also introduced a three-month sabbatical option for employees with a ten-year length of service.

Gender Equality

Issues around gender though are what Simone is truly passionate about, something that’s evident in our new parental policies. “Gender equality is very important to us”, she explains. “We want every employee to look at a policy and think, ‘I can associate with an element of that’. We now offer 26 weeks fully paid maternity leave, and have upped paternity leave from two weeks to an impressive eight. We also introduced ‘Enhanced New Parenthood’, a support system for men and women after they return to work from having a child. “Parents get an extra three days paid leave in the first two years of their child’s life, for unexpected illnesses or appointments”, says Simone. “We want to alleviate people’s stress and enable them to come to work knowing that they are supported at that moment in their lives.”

All of this impressive work by Simone and her team showcases the importance of being a caring, inclusive institution. “It demonstrates that we’re all people who have challenging lives, full of ups and downs. We want to say, whatever you’re going through, happy or sad, when you walk through the door, we understand you. And we want to support you through any of these periods of your life.”