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Should firms be doing more to help dads spend time with their kids?

Tuesday 11th June 2019

The UK government’s shared parental leave system was introduced in 2015, allowing parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of statutory parental pay between them.

However, recent research has suggested very few working parents are taking advantage of these provisions, even though many fathers would welcome the opportunity to spend more time with their family. This begs the question: should businesses be doing more to encourage dads to take time off work and look after their children?

Low Take-Up
Communications software firm PowWowNow conducted a survey of 1,000 fathers in the UK and found that only one in ten have taken shared parental leave since the scheme was introduced in 2015. This is despite 85 per cent of respondents saying they wished they had taken more time off to look after their child.

The findings were in line with HMRC figures showing that uptake of shared parental pay among eligible couples was only 3.5 per cent in 2018.

More than three-quarters of fathers said work pressure was the main factor that stopped them from spending time with their child and being more involved in their upbringing.

A third of respondents who had not taken shared parental leave said they couldn’t afford it, while one in five were unaware it was an option at the time.

Separate research by Headspace Group echoed the themes of the PowWowNow study, with only 22 per cent of survey respondents saying fathers should be offered paternity leave more in line with current maternity legislation. Only four out of ten people said they would take advantage of equal paternity leave.

Unrealised Benefits
The reports highlighted some of the valuable benefits businesses could gain from taking a more proactive approach to this issue, such as improved work/life balance for men and more opportunities for women to maintain their career progress shortly after having children.

Jason Downes, managing director of PowWowNow, said employers have a “crucial role to play” in encouraging take-up of shared parental leave, which would “motivate more couples to share child-caring responsibilities more evenly and help ease gender disparity in the workplace”.

He added: “There are simple ways that employers can better support fathers, such as by offering family-friendly policies and implementing flexible working practices in the workplace to let new parents fit child-caring commitments around work ones. Ultimately, fathers who are able to have a better work-life balance will be more likely to be happier, more engaged team members in the office.”

Other countries have succeeded in modernising their parental leave systems. In Sweden, for example, it is now commonplace for men to take extended leave periods to look after their children.

The country offers up to 480 days of paid leave for new parents, with at least 90 days having to be taken by the father.

Image courtesy of: Daniela Dimitrova from Pixabay

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