Fewer than 1% of fathers are taking advantage of new legislation designed to allow them to take more time off after their partner has a baby.
The government’s shared parental leave (SPL) scheme was introduced on 5 April last year to give both men and women more flexible time off during the first 12 months after having a baby, but, according to a new survey, men aren’t taking that leave.
My Family Care, an employment and family advice service, surveyed more than 200 employers, and its research showed that at more than 40% of companies, not a single man took advantage of the new flexitime rules in the last year.
Fewer than 1% of new fathers have taken advantage of shared parental leave, and there were less than 20 companies where more than 1% of new dads took advantage of the parental leave laws.
The reported suggested there were a number of reasons for the slow uptake. These included:
- The financial affordability of the scheme.
- A lack of awareness of the options.
- Many men think that women don’t want to share their leave.
- About half of men think their employers would not want them to take it.
According to government rules SPL “is paid at the rate of £139.58 ($198.47) a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.” For most people working a full-time job, that’s substantially less than earnings. The scheme allows parents to take leave at the same time or separately.
My Family Care’s report added that representatives at many of the companies they talked to were mixed on the idea taking more paternity leave: “What’s particularly interesting is that when we asked the HR respondents of the survey whether THEY would share leave with their partners, the response was far from overwhelmingly positive. Many commented that they simply don’t want to or, if they did, it would only be a small amount” the report said.
The Guardian notes that “a government assessment suggested 285,000 working fathers would be eligible to take the leave, but only 2% to 8% would do so.”
“This compares with about nine in 10 fathers in Sweden and Norway, where between 80% and 100% of their earnings are replaced while they are on leave.”
Al Ferguson from The Dad Network said the figures were disappointing, but unsurprising, saying: “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.”