On the first anniversary of the launch of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), it has been widely reported that just 1% of dads have chosen to take it up.
However this figure, taken from research compiled by My Family Care, which helps businesses introduce family friendly ways of working, and the Women’s Business Council, has been misreported.
There were 200 employers interviewed for the research and from these companies, just 1% of male employees took up SPL.
My Family Care has pointed out that the figure included men who didn’t have children or adopt in the last year, so would not have been eligible to take up SPL.
“It’s important to note that we have reported the figures against ALL male employees as the majority of companies were unable to tell us the size of their male populations that were eligible for Shared Parental Leave,” the company stated.
A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said the Government will be evaluating the policy in 2018 to enable them to accurately estimate the take up of Shared Parental Leave.
“When the policy was introduced, the Government estimated that around 285,000 couples would be eligible for SPL and that the take up would be between 2% and 8%,” the spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK.
“Take up is likely to be higher in organisations that offer pay above the statutory minimum.”
The policy, which allows couples to share leave following the birth of a baby or adoption of a child, was introduced in 2015.
The aim of the policy was to help new mums get back into the workplace and give men the opportunity to care full time for their new baby or adopted child in the first year.
Alongside surveying companies, My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council also surveyed 1,000 men and women who were parents or parents-to-be about their views on SPL.
These findings gave some insight into people’s attitudes towards SPL, one year after it was launched.
Many women said they would be reluctant to share their leave, with an estimated 55% admitting they didn’t want to cut their time with a new baby short.
Just over half of respondents (50% of men and 57% of women) said they believed that taking SPL could negatively impact on a man’s career.
From those surveyed, 80% of both men and women agreed that a decision to share leave would be dependent on their finances and their employer’s enhancement of SPL.
However, My Family Care did find that men are interested in taking SPL in the future, with almost two thirds (63%) who are considering having more children saying it was likely they would choose to take SPL.
Ben Black, founder of My Family Care told The Huffington Post UK, he’s optimistic about the policy’s uptake in the future.
“This is all new – give it a bit of time,” he said.
“Businesses need to lose the fear. Shared Parental Leave will involve men taking a month off here and there.
“The world won’t collapse and careers will remain on track.
“And also society needs to grow up; this is the most difficult one to get past.
“Men need to stop worrying about how they are perceived and women need to let go.”
Of the 200 employers asked, 48% were “optimistic” about SPL, believing it will be normalised over time, while 45% thought it would remain a minority choice.
Black believes dads are more likely to take up SPL if their employers are more understanding.
“Businesses need to help their employees combine work and family, by providing them with choices and enabling them to carry on with their careers while having a family,” he added.
“More and more we’re going to hear fantastic stories of fathers who have taken SPL.
“Once these stories filter through, and the notion of sharing leave in this way becomes ‘normal’, then it will be accepted practice.
“Of course, all change takes time and while it hasn’t so far been the cultural change that many were clamouring for, I suspect with many companies enhancing paternity leave, momentum will grow.”
Emer Timmons, chair of the ‘Men as Change Agents’ working group at the Women’s Business Council said the findings highlight the important role businesses can play in raising awareness of the opportunity to take SPL.
“We can see that some fathers have embraced the opportunity to spend time with their young families but that there is still a long way to go for others,” he said.
“Increasing flexibility in the workplace is a key recommendation of the Women’s Business Council – it is good for women, good for families, good for business and ultimately the economy, so it’s a win-win situation all round.”
Tom Picton-Turbervill, senior manager in Tax at Deloitte was one of the fathers who did take up SPL after his son Henry was born in June 2015.
His main aim for taking leave was to support his wife and build up a relationship with his son, Henry, who is now nine months old.
He took the initial two weeks paternity leave when his son was born and then four weeks SPL, together with his wife, during August 2015.
“Babies change so quickly in those first few months and I wanted to be there to experience it,” he explained.
“Taking the time out has given me confidence in looking after my son. My wife and I learned how to be parents together rather than me trying to catch up on weekends and evenings.
“The time off allowed me to spend time with him and my wife in those first few weeks, watching him develop.
“My colleagues at work were really supportive of me taking the time off and a common reaction was ‘I wish this was around when I had my kids’.”