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Two-thirds of the workforce believe taking up flexible working and shared parental leave will damage their career progression, according to new research by Hays.
Over three-quarters of women (76%) say choosing to work flexibly will limit their career with 65% men sharing a similar sentiment, according to the latest Hays UK Gender Diversity Report 2017.
The research, complied by recruiter Hays, refers to a survey of over 5,400 respondents from professionals in the UK, and examines the views and actions of men and women towards gender diversity in the UK.
The report also highlights that perceptions and financial issues are resulting in the majority of male parents not taking the option of shared parental leave. Nearly a third of workers (32%) believe men who take shared parental leave may be seen as less committed to their careers, with the vast majority choosing to return to work without taking the extended leave option.
The research found both men and women feel they have increased freedom to promote their skills and abilities in the workplace than in previous years. However, the majority acknowledge that obstacles to gender equality still exist.
Some 84% of workers say it’s important that flexible working options are available to them in their workplace, but many choose not to take any, and two-thirds think doing so will have a negative impact on their career.
However, both men and women think flexible working options have helped improve the gender balance in senior roles, with 61% saying flexible working has improved the representation of women in senior positions.
The research also shows that the vast majority of male parents aren’t taking the full allowance of their parental leave, despite 78% of workers believing it could be a factor which improves gender diversity in the workplace. Close to half of organisations (42%) reported having shared parental leave policies in place, yet uptake of shared parental leave remains low.
Close to half of the workforce (42%) believe fathers take little or none of their parental leave entitlement.
Concerns about a financial impact on the family was the biggest factor for both genders for not doing so, followed by widely held concern that men may be viewed as being less committed to their career – 32% of both genders believe this is the case.
The research also found men were more than twice as likely to be promoted following having children at nearly a quarter (24%), compared to 10% of women.
Progression after becoming a parent was not an issue for the majority of men (79%) who retained their current role or moved into a more senior one. By contrast almost a third (31%) of women took a part time role or a role at a lower pay grade.
Yvonne Smyth, Head of Diversity at Hays UK & Ireland, said: “It’s concerning that although these initiatives are viewed as important options to both men and women and are directly associated with bridging the gender divide, employees are worried about the negative impact a leave of absence and more flexible working pattern may have on their career.
“Employers need to be promoting communication and training on this to make sure senior leadership and middle management are better equipped to promote the benefits of these policies and address stated or unspoken concerns”.