One year after the introduction of shared parental leave for parents of babies born on or after 1 April 2014, surveys on take-up were undertaken. Reports in the press declared it to be very poor, but it seems they got the wrong end of the stick.
What the Surveys Said
My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council questioned HR directors from 200 companies and found that around 1% of men had requested and been granted shared parental leave. But this was a percentage of all men employed, and only 10% of both the men and women employed had had a baby since April 2015. In fact, 24% of these women and 30% of the men who were new parents had taken shared parental leave.
In another survey by Totaljobs, out of 628 respondents, 86 became parents in the qualifying time. Among these, 21% were ineligible to take shared parental leave, while 31% took it. In both cases, this was considerably more than was reported in the press.
Are the Surveys Representative?
However, Mark Crail, content director at XpertHR, said the research should be taken with a pinch of salt. Not only were the samples particularly small, there were other factors to be taken into consideration.
‘If the 30% figures are correct then take-up has been higher than expected – it’s good news, not the shock-horror story that much of the media has been running about these research findings,’ he said. ‘The problem is many employers simply will not know whether or not men are eligible for shared parental leave unless and until they apply. If someone’s partner has a baby and they choose not to tell their employer, they won’t show up in the records. That makes it extremely difficult to get a good overview of what’s really happening.’
Why Parents Don’t Apply
There are clearly still barriers to taking shared parental leave. Many people just can’t afford it, especially if their employers are unwilling or unable to top up the statutory pay awarded. Among men, the culture of their organisation may discourage it, and both men and women are sometimes fearful that their careers would suffer. Some women and men said that they believed that women prefer to be the main carer of their children. A lack of awareness about shared parental leave also seems to be a problem.
In small businesses, shared parental leave may be seen as yet another burden for the employer and affordability is bound to be a problem. If you have any questions about shared parental leave for your staff, your local bookkeepers will be happy to advise you.