Two-thirds of fathers open to taking shared parental leave

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Nearly two-thirds of fathers would consider discussing shared parental leave with their employer if they had children in the future, a large-scale government survey has revealed.

Three in 10 fathers (29%) said that they would have taken shared parental leave and a further 17% said they “probably” would have taken it, had it been available to them when they had their children.

Almost half (47%) of fathers wish that shared parental leave had been available when they started a family, the survey of more than 4,000 UK adults found.

These attitudes appear to contrast with previous research into fathers’ perceptions of the new right, which applies to parents of babies due on or after the 5 April 2015.

A survey in 2014 by the Institute of Leadership and Management found that fewer than one in 10 fathers took more than their statutory paternity leave of two weeks, and only 37% felt that their employer was supportive of the changes. And a government impact assessment in 2013 estimated that take-up of shared parental leave would be between 2% and 8%.

In the new government survey conducted last month, when asked how much time fathers had taken for their most recent child, the mean response was 13.7 days, while the most common response was between one and two weeks.

However, when asked how much leave fathers should be able to take, the mean number of days was 31.5 days – the equivalent of more than six working weeks. Around one in seven people said fathers should be entitled to between one and three months.

The survey, carried out by Opinion Matters, also highlighted how cultural attitudes towards fathers influence perceptions of family-friendly working. More than one-third of respondents thought that fathers were unfairly portrayed in the media, and 81% said this contributed to outdated stereotypes.

Finances continue to have an important role in the decision of whether or not to take shared leave. Almost 40% of parents said they expected to be worse off after having a baby.

Meanwhile, almost half of those who had no plans to discuss shared parental leave with their employer said this was because they were the main breadwinner, therefore their family would not be able to afford it.

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