Survey shows low take-up of Shared Parental Leave

One year one from the implementation of Shared Parental Leave, just 1% of men have so far taken it up while 55% of women say they wouldn’t want to share their maternity leave, according to new research from My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council.

The combined survey of over 1,000 parents and 200 HR Directors found that taking up SPL was very much dependent on a person’s individual circumstances, particularly their financial situation and the paternity pay on offer from their employer.

The main reasons why men have chosen not to take up SPL are financial affordability, lack of awareness, and unwillingness from women to share their maternity leave. 80% of both men and women agreed that a decision to share leave would be dependent on their finances and their employer’s enhancement of SPL.

But, while take-up is still low, the research found that men are interested in taking SPL in the future, with almost two thirds of men who already have young children and are considering having more saying it was likely they would choose to take SPL.

While Shared Parental Leave was introduced, in part, to increase equality in the workplace, just over half (55%) of mothers said they wouldn’t want to share their maternity leave with their partners, but 48% of women said they wanted to have a shorter time off for career purposes. There was also a general consensus that a man taking SPL could negatively impact on his career with 50% of men saying this and 57% of women. Only 40% of individuals say that SPL is encouraged by their employer. Some 74% say they have received no guidance on SPL from their HR departments and 67% of women are not clear about or don’t know what SPL is.

Some 48% of businesses say they are optimistic about SPL, believing it will be normalised over time, while 45% think it will remain a minority choice. Some 87% of men said that they would like to take longer leave so as to be fully involved in parenting their child. However, finance forms the crux of the decision with 80% of both men and women agreeing that a decision to share leave would be dependent on their finances and employer’s enhancement of SPL.

Of the 200 employers surveyed, the majority said that they enhanced both maternity (77%) and paternity (65%) pay. The core reasons were to be consistent with their culture of fairness and equality, and to increase retention and engagement of both men and women. Those companies who haven’t enhanced SPL did so because of the potential costs involved primarily, followed by their view that they’d be better off ‘waiting and seeing’ if the opportunity proved popular.

Ben Black, Founder of My Family Care, said: “It is still very early days for Shared Parental Leave. While take-up is low, its introduction was a fantastic step forward when it comes to equality in the workplace; a policy that proves that women are no longer expected to be the main childcare provider, while men are no longer expected to be the main breadwinner.

“The key thing for businesses is to help their employees combine work and family, by providing them with choices and enabling them to carry on with their careers while having a family. More and more we’re going to hear fantastic stories of fathers, at senior levels, who have taken Shared Parental Leave, and once these stories filter through, and the notion of sharing leave in this way becomes ‘normal’, then it will be accepted practice and that 1% will gradually increase. Of course, all change takes time and while it hasn’t so far been the cultural change that many were clamouring for, I suspect that, with many companies enhancing paternity leave, momentum will grow.”

Emer Timmons, Chair of the ‘Men as Change Agents’ working group at the Women’s Business Council, said: “The findings highlight the important role that business can play in raising awareness of the opportunity to take SPL. One year on, we can see that some fathers have embraced the opportunity to spend time with their young families but that there is still a long way to go for others. Increasing flexibility in the workplace was a key recommendation of the Women’s Business Council, designed to give women more control over career choices, and I am delighted to see that My Family Care is working with enlightened organisations to kick-start the culture change that is needed to give fathers the confidence to take time off for childcare. Increased flexibility is good for women, good for families, good for business and ultimately the economy, so it’s a win-win situation all round”.

One dad who has taken SPL is Tom Picton-Turbervill who is a Senior Manager in Tax at Deloitte. His wife gave birth to baby Henry in June. He took the initial two weeks paternity leave when he was born and then four weeks SPL, together with his wife, during August.

His main aim for taking leave was to support his wife and build up a relationship with his son.

Tom said: “Babies change so quickly in those first few months and I wanted to be there to experience it. Taking the time out has given me confidence in looking after my son. My wife and I learned how to be parents together rather than me trying to catch up on weekends and evenings. The time off allowed me to spend time with him and my wife in those first few weeks, watching him develop.

“My colleagues at work were really supportive of me taking the time off and a common reaction was ‘I wish this was around when I had my kids’. The process was easy and I even received a babygrow from the firm.

“I would highly recommend taking shared parental leave as there is no way to get this time again. Plan ahead so you can work with the team to hand over your work and make sure you enjoy every moment.”

You can download the full results of My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council’s findings at https://www.myfamilycare.co.uk/news/update/shared-parental-leave-where-are-we-now.html





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