Organisations 'need to tackle cultural and financial barriers to paternity leave'

Cultural and financial barriers mean just 10% of new fathers and only 2% of managers take more than two weeks of paternity leave, according to the Institute of Leadership and Management. 

Cultural and financial barriers mean just 10% of new fathers and only 2% of managers take more than two weeks of paternity leave, according to the Institute of Leadership and Management. 

The ILM says the low take-up of paternity leave suggests that organisations are culturally less accepting of a father’s rights to take paternity leave than mothers' right to take maternity leave. Currently employers are seen to be more supportive of mothers taking up to a year’s maternity leave (63% supportive) than they are of fathers taking just two weeks paternity leave (58% supportive).

It says managers feel a dual pressure to return to work, both for financial reasons, as they are likely to be earning more than their non-managerial counterparts, and because of the expectations of their employer or peers.

Just nine per cent of new fathers receive full pay for longer than two weeks when on paternity leave, while 70% of new mothers receive full pay between one and 38 weeks. The ILM says the ‘paternity pay gap’ not only creates practical financial barriers to shared parental leave, it also projects a cultural expectation that women will be the only ones taking extended periods away from the workplace, "which may halt their career progression, stopping the flow of female talent within organisations".

Almost half (46%) of the employees surveyed by the ILM and 58% of managers said that parental leave was somewhat disruptive for their organisations. Three quarters of managers (72%) felt parental leave affected the efficiency and productivity of their teams. 

Leave was most disruptive when the absence was covered internally, which most employers opt to do (by sharing the workload across the team or department or by using an internal member of staff to cover the role).

The research showed that generally both managers and non-managers are supportive of all forms of parental leave, including the proposed introduction of shared leave.

Managers in small organisations were shown to be more concerned about parental leave, and felt their employer was slightly less supportive of new shared parental leave proposals than those working in larger organisations.

The ILM says perceived cultural barriers are likely to impede the uptake of the new shared leave proposals and that these are already impacting on the uptake of paternity leave.

The ILM says: "Despite changes to legislation on parental leave, there remains an ingrained expectation in many organisations that mothers will take on primary childcare in the first year of a child’s life.

"While the introduction of shared leave will clearly pose significant practical challenges for managers and employers, it has the potential to be an important driver of gender diversity. If organisations are serious about realising the benefits of a diverse senior team, and meeting impending Government targets for more gender balanced boards, the introduction of shared leave is a crucial step towards achieving equality in the workplace and enabling more women to progress into senior roles."





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