Just 8,700 new parents took advantage of the Shared Parental Leave system in 2016/17, making up less than 1% of the number of parents eligible, according to research by law firm EMW.
The Shared Parental Leave system allows both new parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them, in place of maternity pay.
EMW says there are many reasons couples may not share their leave, including cultural stigma, concern about the impact on the father’s career and financial pressures.
It adds that many parents may still not be aware of the SPL scheme.
Jon Taylor, Principal at EMW, says: “Demand for the Shared Parental Leave system remains very low – families could be missing out by not embracing the system.”
“Many new parents are unclear how the system will work for their families and careers. Fathers in particular could be concerned about coming across as less committed to their job if they ask for greater flexibility, deterring them from looking into it.”
“Employers must take a proactive approach towards leave for new parents – not only for mothers, but fathers too. If an employer is seen as sympathetic to the needs of new parents, they are more likely to enjoy retention of staff.”