Businesses must be transparent about Shared Parental Leave

New fathers are entitled to more than the two weeks paternity leave, so why aren’t they taking Shared Parental Leave?

The days of raising a family on one income are long over, yet only a quarter (25.9%) of companies provide information about Shared Parental Leave (SPL) unprovoked, says research by PowWowNow.

The lack of transparency from employers about the initiative could be what is preventing its uptake says the research, as it investigates the attitudes of fathers and employers towards SPL.

SPL was introduced in 2015 to allow parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them following the birth of a child and is designed to allow couples to split child-caring roles more equally. However, uptake of SPL remains low; HMRC figures suggest that only 3.8% of eligible couples took Shared Parental Pay in 2018/19.

In a time where we are still fighting against the gender pay gap, it’s surprising that less than 5% of couples share SPL equally. Workplace culture is a big factor, as many employers are resistant to fathers taking time off to care for their child; 13% of dads did not feel comfortable asking their employer for SPL, and only 48% of workers strongly felt their employer was supportive when they did apply for the initiative. Three-quarters of fathers said they believe there remains a cultural stigma around men taking time off to look after their children.

Fathers usually take just two weeks of paternal leave after a baby is born, so when men opt for taking SPL, they fear facing stigma at work. Three-quarters of men (75.3%) felt pressured to come back to the workplace quickly, with the biggest pressures coming from financial circumstances (32%), followed by pressure from an employer (31%) and work culture (28%).

The benefits from father’s involvement in childcare are clear; of those fathers who did take SPL, 96% reported a positive longer-term impact on their lives resulting from the experience. Not just that, but 43% had greater involvement in the care of their children going forwards; 44% had improvements in their relationship with their partner; 46% reported a better quality of family life, and 41% said they had improved life satisfaction.

The overwhelmingly positive impact of sharing parental leave is proof enough that businesses must become more transparent about their employees taking SPL. If we want to reach gender equality businesses need to take fathers into consideration, says Andrew Johnson, MD of PowWowNow: “Businesses have a crucial role to play in empowering fathers to be able to take care of their children. With a clear shift in cultural perceptions of gender roles in parenting, leaders need to ensure that processes and policies support fathers who decide to start a family.”
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