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.
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. 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. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Awareness – Whether its HR departments to blame or not, parents do not know enough about SPL to make an informed decision.
- 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.
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 :)