5 April 2016 marks the first anniversary of the launch of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), the revolutionary policy that allows couples to share leave surrounding the arrival of a new addition to the family. The hope is to help women back into the workplace quicker and give men the opportunity to care full-time for their new baby or adopted child in the important first year.
My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council conducted research on the story so far and found that just 1% of men (all men that is, not just eligible men based on their feedback) have so far taken up the opportunity to share their partner’s parental leave, while 55% of women say they wouldn’t want to share their maternity leave.
The combined survey of over 1,000 parents and 200 businesses found that taking up SPL was very much dependent on a person’s individual circumstances, particularly on their financial situation and the level of paternity pay available from their employer. The main reasons for lack of take up by men are affordability, lack of awareness and unwillingness of women to share the leave entitlement. While take up is still low, the research found that men are interested in taking SPL in the future. Of those surveyed, 63% of men who already had children and were considering having more said it was likely they would choose to take SPL.
Of the 200 employers asked, 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 employee retention and gender diversity.
Outwith the survey’s findings there is perceived a reluctance to engage on the part of fathers in case this is interpreted as lack of career commitment.