Over a year on from the introduction of the right to Shared Parental Leave new research has revealed that only around two per cent of fathers are taking this up.
Law firm EMW released figures this week that show that just 3,000 couples were taking up the new rights during the first three months of this year, compared with 155,000 mothers on old-style maternity leave and 52,000 of fathers on paternity leave.
I’m not surprised by these figures as many companies, especially smaller firms, don’t necessarily promote shared parental leave because of the potential disruption it could cause and parents generally would rather more flexibility instead.
We’ve noticed very few companies using our absence management tool to manage shared parental leave, despite the system being ideal for managing this kind of leave.
We've found that typically parents don't want to share long periods of pre-arranged parental leave, they just want a little flexibility to enable them to both share the responsibility of childcare. Flexibility to deal with hiccups that arise, such as being able to swap shifts, finish early or work from home if needed, sometimes at short notice, offers parents more choice. In our experience this is a more popular option.
The new Shared Parental Law was introduced in April 2015 gives any couple having a baby the option of sharing almost a year of leave from work after the birth of a child. The law was designed to minimise disruption to women’s careers and breakdown traditional views in the workplace that childcare is just a women’s responsibility.
Whilst shared parental leave sounds good on paper, it is far more structured than flexible working and requires pre-booking periods of leave. Offering a little flexibility is often less disruptive to the business and is more in line with what parents want.
However, the great thing about both shared parental leave and flexible working is that, in a culture where both parents often have to work after having children, it gives parents more options to choose from and ultimately more opportunities to strike the right balance between work and family life.