- 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.
Families cannot afford it
When asked about the biggest barriers to taking SPL, 85% of employees believe that families cannot financially afford it. 74% of respondents have received no information or guidance from their HR departments, and 65% do not know if their employers offer enhanced SPL pay or conditions.
Despite the small uptake of the policy, three-quarters (75%) of survey respondents think that SPL will reduce gender stereotypes about parenthood and 66% believe it will decrease inequality in the workplace, with more men taking time off and women returning to work more quickly.
This links to the gender pay gap, as women reported earning less than their male partners, making it easier for them to stay at home.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, offered her opinion on SPL: “What this survey shows very clearly is that current arrangements for Shared Parental Leave will not fundamentally change entrenched gender roles around who does the caring. We need a game changer and we think a dedicated period of leave for dads paid close to replacement income rate is the way to go, leading to equalised leave entitlements over time.”
A positive change for families
80% agree that SPL will strengthen the role of fathers in the family, by giving them the opportunity to spend time bonding with their children as early as possible. The upcoming implementation of Grandparental Leave would be a welcome addition to the policy, with parents agreeing that their families would benefit from it, although 45% of respondents fear it would be difficult to organise.
Adrienne Burgess, Joint CEO and Head of Research at the Fatherhood Institute shared her insights: “The UK system of Shared Parental Leave has restricted eligibility, meaning that no more than 30% of mothers and fathers can use it. This, plus the fact that it is paid at such a low rate (£27.60 per day) and that most parents don’t know about it, means that uptake will be very low.
“The UK needs the kind of parental leave system common in the rest of Europe, which widens eligibility to all employed parents and pays 90% wage replacement, with a cap for high earners. Once that is in place, leave taking will become normative (as taking paternity leave is now) and fathers and mothers will be less worried about the impact on their careers.”
And yet, people are concerned about the ramifications
81% of employees fear the impact on their careers of taking SPL. 64% say they fear discrimination at work, and 41% noted that their colleagues’ and peers’ perceptions of them are among the biggest reasons for not taking SPL.
For Esther Radnor, Founding Director at Mum+Business, the key might be in flexiwork: “We believe that anything that gives families flexibility as to when and where they work is positive. Therefore we believe that shared parental leave has been a good step forward in breaking down gender inequality, offering women and men the chance to return to work when they feel it is the right time for them.
“For some mothers, an extended career break is what they want and need, while others might want to return to work sooner. Any initiative that offers families more choices and can help parents develop themselves and their careers is something that we support.”
Sam Smethers, of the Fawcett Society, agreed: “The survey also shows that there is a real appetite for more flexible working. We need to move to a system of flexibility by default so that every job is presumed flexible unless there is a good business reason for it not to be.