Government estimates of shared parental leave take-up too low

Almost two-thirds of men and women would be interested in taking up new rights to shared parental leave – a huge contrast to government estimates – according to a survey by law firm Linklaters.

According to the research, based on responses from 250 employees working for FTSE100 employers, 62% showed an interest in taking a period of shared parental leave after the rights come into force on 1 December.

The proportion was almost identical between men (62%) and women (63%), and is considerably higher than the Government’s estimate, which was between 2% and 5%.

One of the key factors in employees making the decision to take shared leave will be whether or not their employer decides to enhance shared parental pay to a similar level as enhanced maternity pay. Around three-quarters (76%) of those surveyed said this would be either relevant or very relevant to their decision to take time away from work.

Linklaters’ research also showed that if the child’s father is entitled to enhanced pay during shared parental leave, a mother is more likely to sacrifice some maternity leave, and this may include some paid maternity leave.

Despite indicating enthusiasm for the new rights, cultural expectations around taking time off remain a barrier, particularly with fathers. Half of the men surveyed said that they would not take a period of shared parental leave if other male colleagues refused to take it.

“Fathers are still concerned about the workplace perception of taking family leave, so employers may need to look for role models in their organisation,” said Simon Kerr-Davis, a senior associate on the employment law team at Linklaters.

Something that will assuage employers’ concerns around the complexity of the new legislation is an indication that employees will prefer to take single, longer periods of leave rather than chopping and changing time spent away from work.

Furthermore, around one-third of respondents said that they would prefer to take shared parental leave at the same time as the mother, compared with a quarter who said they would be more likely to take leave independently of when their partner took it.

“This suggests leave will not be used primarily for individualised care,” explained Kerr-Davis. “There’s a push towards spending time together as a family.”

Kerr-Davis added that, while financial incentives were an important factor in whether or not parents would take up the new right, these should not be viewed in isolation.

He said: “There are all sorts of ways employers can offer additional support through a strong flexible working culture. This could be a variation in working patterns so employees can manage childcare arrangements, for example.”

Earlier this month, a survey of participants in a Personnel Today webinar found that three-quarters of organisations will enhance shared parental pay to the same level as enhanced maternity pay.

Meanwhile, Deloitte, PWC and Shell, who between them employ nearly 100,000 staff in the UK, announced yesterday that they will offer enhanced paternity packages to all employees.

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