How to embrace Shared Parental Leave

Eight in 10 top UK companies paid men more than women in 2018.

To help fathers better embrace Shared Parental Leave in order to take on a greater role in their child’s upbringing, employers can work to create a supportive environment for new parents by enacting strategies that allow men to spend more time with their children.

1. Take advantage of tech

New technology has led to a wealth of communication tools available for businesses to enable their workforce to carry out tasks remotely. Instant messaging, screen sharing, and video conferencing means new parents can transition back to work seamlessly and work around child-care responsibilities. Shared calendars can also let workers communicate their child-care routines clearly to colleagues and ensure there are clear expectations for when employees should be online, which can help to normalise the routine.

2. Build a flexible working culture

Another way that companies can create a workplace that supports new parents is by building a flexible working culture within the business. Employers need to work with parents on a case-by-case basis to develop a bespoke plan which caters to their individual needs. Flexible working policies need to be offered to both new mothers as well as fathers so that flexi-hours are no longer predominantly offered to women. Opening up flexible working to fathers will ensure women do not continue to take on the lion’s share of child-raising and begin to tackle the gender pay gap.

3. Put in place transparent policies and robust support structures

Employers also need to be more proactive about educating their workers on the parental rights available to them. This can be done by putting in place an internal portal where all the relevant information can be sourced by soon-to-be parents easily, and by discussing the options openly with new fathers. Since there remains a cultural stigma around the role that men play in parenting, these approaches can help make men aware of the availability of SPL, and therefore allow them to feel more comfortable discussing their options instead of being left to research the topic alone.

As well as this, employers can also encourage men to take on greater responsibility for their new child by putting in place more support for their return to work. Personal development plans created in tandem with new parents can help workers to feel less pressure, either from themselves or colleagues, when they go back to work, and less anxious about taking time off when they need to care for a child.

4. Equal pay for SPL

In addition, businesses that offer equal pay for parental leave for both men and women can contribute towards removing some of the financial discrepancies which often result in men remaining at work and women taking on the bulk of childcare. Employers providing equal pay above statutory pay for SPL could help to make the parental leave option even more attractive for parents and empower fathers to maintain more involvement in in the care of their child.

Since an overwhelming majority (90%) of fathers said that taking time off work to care for their child had a positive effect on family life, it is evident that dads who are able to become more involved in their child’s life will feel more positive about their role in the home and in work.

Undoubtedly, by putting in place simple and clear policies, harnessing tech and establishing a supportive and inclusive environment, employers can be instrumental in helping to balance childcare roles and tackle the gender pay gap.

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