How supportive is your organisation of working fathers? Do they feel able to take parental leave or does this continue to be perceived as a benefit primarily for female employees, particularly in the first year of their child’s life?
Research published by Hays in New Zealand earlier this week found that less than a quarter of the working fathers surveyed said that their employer offers parental leave on equal terms to their female counterparts. More than half, meanwhile, feared that taking parental leave could lead others to question their commitment to their job.
A similar picture can be seen in the UK. Despite the introduction of shared parental leave in 2015, the low take up of this has been well documented. Just 54 of 56,000 employees surveyed by law firm Milners in May 2017, for example, had taken up shared parental leave.
A freedom of information request by law firm EMW in September 2017, meanwhile, found that 8,700 new parents took advantage of shared parental leave in 2016/17, representing less than 1% of all eligible parents.
Anecdotally, we have heard time and time again that the main reasons for working fathers not taking up this right include concerns about how this will be perceived by colleagues, career progression and the fact they cannot afford to do so. Indeed, 43% of respondents to Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey, published earlier this month, said they would not take up shared parental leave because it would not make financial sense to do so.
Having witnessed close family members successfully share parental leave over the past year, with each parent taking six months leave, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of doing so, not only on the child, but also for the mother and father.
An increasing number of employers now offer enhanced parental leave policies for staff, but what more should organisations be doing to help and support employees who wish to take these up?
If there is a perceived stigma around individuals, particularly fathers, who take up shared parental leave, what more should employers be doing to change their organisational culture to one where staff are not afraid to take up such benefits?