The Shocking Shared Parental Leave Statistics One Year On

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Today marks the anniversary of the Governments latest legislation on paternity leave, called shared parental leave (SPL).

They brought it to play this time last year to not only provide fathers with more opportunity to spend those precious early weeks with their newborn baby, but also to encourage them to do so. Has it worked? Well, the statistics one year on, don’t suggest it has.

Shared Parental Leave FT

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of SPL, it provides a way for many employed parents to split, up to 52 weeks of entitled time off to spend with their newborn baby.
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They can either divide the time whereby one parent works and the other cares for the child or they can fashion it in such a way as they both have time off together. Either way, they have 52 weeks between them, to play with.
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Not all are eligible, but many are and despite there being many pros and cons to this relatively new scheme, to me, this is s a step in the right direction for the UK’s perception of the modern dad. Read more about SPL here.

The problem appears to be, however, that dads aren’t yet utilising this option. Totaljobs conducted some recent research and here are their key headlines:

  • 85% of employees think that families cannot afford SPL.
  • 81% fear the impact of taking SPL on their careers.
  • 80% believe that SPL will strengthen the role of fathers in the family.
  • 74% have received no guidance on SPL from their HR departments.
  • 2/3 (67%) of women are not clear about or don’t know what SPL is.

It’s more than apparent that there are quite a few barriers as to why dads aren’t pouncing on this opportunity to spend time with their children. It’s fair to say that the reasons, therefore, must be substantial and obviously need to be addressed. The experience of many dads in The Dad Network is one where many would have loved the opportunity to spend quality time with their new bundle. Sadly, they weren’t able to.

So why not?

Well, the statistics don’t lie. It seems that the four main reasons are:

  1. Finances – Families just can’t afford to take a cut in both parents wages and most of the time, it is a significant cut in income.
  2. Fear – Dads fear that SPL will have a detrimental impact on their careers. Careers that they have probably spent a long time working hard to build up.
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  3. Awareness – Whether its HR departments to blame or not, parents do not know enough about SPL to make an informed decision.
  4. Mums – From our network, it seems that there are some mums out there, reluctant to share!

These are issues that need to be addressed. Part of me understands that this was always going to be a slow process; raising awareness and undoing centuries of tradition with regards to gender roles and stereotypes but the other part is in disbelief that more dads aren’t taking the opportunity. For me, those early days with Ted were priceless and even though I spent his first six weeks of exploring the world with him, I wish I’d had longer and I wish I could have those six weeks and do them again.

Someone asked me recently what we can do to increase the number of dads taking SPL and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure. My instinct tells me that The Dad Network’s aim to raise the profile of dads could have something to do with it; it’s about speeding up this cultural shift we’re seeing in society whereby fathers are taking more and more active roles in the raising of their children. If The Dad Network can help this in any way, we will.
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I doubt this is the last we’ve heard of this legislation, and I’m sure there will be tweaks along the way, but one thing is for sure, if someone asked my opinion, I’d say if at all possible, take the opportunity. It genuinely is once in a lifetime.

Here are the reports findings in more detail, for those interested :)


Read the full survey report and stories from parents on totaljobs

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  1. J

    What I don’t like about the article is that it seems to suggest fathers don’t want to take up SPL but doesn’t take into account those that would like to but where the mother couldn’t (or wouldn’t) agree to SPL

  2. DadvWorld - David Shaul

    We definitely need to do more to make Dads aware that there are opportunities available to have a more active role in their child’s initial months of development. Employers won’t ever thrust this type of information at their male employees because it’s not beneficial to them. PS. Watched your ‘Day in the life of’ on the Dad network yesterday, great video. I’m venturing into YouTube as well as my blog and I want to help change the perception of the Fathers role. :)

    • Al Ferguson

      Well, I think it would be alright. Seems plenty of room for Ted but perhaps worth asking iCandy directly?

  3. Alex Morley

    My employer is incredibly forward-looking and understanding. They have allowed me to work a compressed-hours 9-day fortnight, so that I can spend a working day per fortnight of just me and my daughter having fun together. My wife’s company heard about this and agreed to do the same for her on the opposing weeks, meaning that our daughter doesn’t have to be in childcare full-time, but spends a day per working week with one or the other of us.

    My employer also made it clear when the new legislation came in with regard to SPL, and I’m sure that my wife’s company would also ensure we could make this happen.

    However, for us, it will be difficult for us to make this happen with any future children, simply for financial reasons.
    I earn more money than my wife, and neither of our companies provide a high percentage of pay during either maternity or paternity leave periods, meaning that we have to take the “lesser of two evils” in terms of the cut to our overall income.

    Until systems are put in place that are similar to some of our Scandinavian counterpart countries with regard to ensuring a reasonable percentage of income is still guaranteed during maternity or paternity leave periods, it will always be tricky to make this work for all families.

  4. Martin

    Hey, I’m one of the lucky ones who is taking SPL. I’m 5 weeks in to a 17 week block of leave, it’s great! I’m really lucky that my employer offers 10 weeks full pay, so it’s almost a no-brainer.

  5. Patrick Harrington

    I’m pleased that the Government will be trying to raise awareness of SPL but one underlying problem remains. Who can afford to live on the miserly rate offered for shared parental leave? It’s currently £140.98 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

    This is the same as Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) except that during the first 6 weeks SMP is paid at 90% of whatever you earn (with no maximum). There is an interesting discussion on gender discrimination possible there!

    It is really little wonder that there is such a low take up on shared parental leave.

    Isn’t it fascinating that those who condemn all manner of things as “undermining the family” never want to discuss issues like this? If they were interested in supporting families they would change their policy on shared parental leave to allow more flexibility and pay a reasonable amount. At the moment it is a token policy that helps few families.

    We need to press for change here and also work on employers to offer more than the minimum. I was pleased to read one comment saying his employer had enhanced pay for 10 weeks. It shows it is possible.

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