Shared Parental Leave has been a law since April 2015. The intention is to allow parents to take up to fifty weeks off after the birth of their child, which they can share between themselves. Parents who opt into this initiative will receive statutory pay, unless their business offers a more favourable payment scheme.
However the take up for Shared Parental Leave remains low, as it does for the standard two week paternity leave, with less than 10% of new dads opting to take more than their two weeks statutory leave and a whopping 40% of men not taking any leave at all.
Research found that men feel too embarrassed to ask for extensions to parental leave allowance, including Shared Parental Leave.
Combatting the employee’s reluctance will require removing the cultural barriers that stop men taking time off work to raise their children. Legislation alone is not enough, and at the heart of this change are businesses, which are now expected to challenge cultural norms and build work environments that support new fathers and help them manage their work/life balance.
Yet how far should businesses actually go in influencing another’s home life? Can there be too much intervention? Business leaders need to ensure that the business remains a priority – something that could feasibly wane if employees are regularly absent from the business for any length of time and continuity is disrupted. It is important the business doesn’t suffer.
The answer might rest with a good engagement strategy with employees, providing them with solid communications on their parental leave options and involving HR (or alternative) from an early stage so that the business can prepare for changes should they happen. More men taking time to look after their young children should certainly help workplace equality, with female workers in a better position to take advantage of more jobs on offer and not held back by lengthy maternity leave.