Over half of parents think caring for a young child should be shared equally between mums and dads and 83% said they would either definitely or possibly consider shared parental leave in the future, according to a government survey.
The Shared Parental Leave: Public Attitudes survey of over 2,000 men and women was carried out in December for the Department of Business and Innovation.
Some 63% of respondents said women had the main responsibility for children in their family, 23% said men and 21% said it was shared equally. Men were much more likely to say care was shared than women [31% vs 16%] and women were much less likely to say their partner was the main carer [25% vs 4%].
However, over 52% thought care should be shared equally. Just 22% thought the mum should be the main carer with 21% saying couples should choose according to their individual circumstances and just under 4% saying dads should be the main carer.
Some 56% of men said they would share care if money wasn’t an issue compared to 50% of women, with younger people more likely to back shared care in those circumstances. Women were slightly more likely to think women should be the main carers if money wasn’t an issue.
The survey took into account different regions and employment category as well as age and gender.
Of those who thought mums should have the main responsibility for caring for a baby, most cited the idea that women were more natural parents, with men slightly more likely to think this than women.
Of those who said dads should have the main responsibility, the majority this was because mums should have a right to work. This came ahead of dads bonding with their children, although bonding was a bigger issue for those aged 16-19 and 32-35 year olds.
Some 23% of those questioned were not aware of shared parental leave and 14% were not sure about it. Some 34% said they were aware and fully understood it.
Over two thirds said they would have considered SPL if it had been around when they first had children. Men were more likely to say they wouldn’t have and those over 40 were more undecided.
Some 39% said they would definitely consider it in future and 44% would possibly consider it. Only 4% said they definitely wouldn’t, with men being slightly less keen.
The main benefits for men were forming a closer bond with their child and fairness to their partner plus letting their partner progress her career. Some 62% of women said it would be good for the whole family and 44% said it was good for their partner to bond with their child.
Men’s main concerns about taking it were financial [38%] followed by worries about the possible impact on their career progression [32%] and this was particularly true for those in their mid to late 20s when career concerns outstripped financial ones.
Before their maternity leave women said their main concern was finances [48%] followed by the career impact of taking a break [25%] and concerns it would be difficult to get back to work [23%].
For 46% these concerns were justified but worth it while 28% simply replied that their concerns were justified. Only 20% said their concerns were not as big a problem as they had thought.
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