Half of fathers would use shared parental leave

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More than half of fathers would use shared parental leave, according to a poll by charity Working Families, published two years after the introduction of the right.

The survey of 300 fathers found that 52% said they would make use of the scheme. The main reasons they gave were to spend time bonding with their new child (36%) and because they and their partner want to share care (25%).

Of those fathers who said that they wouldn’t use the scheme, 37% said this was because they couldn’t afford to, 17% said they were not eligible, for example because they or their partner is self-employed or not working, and 13% said it was because their partner was the primary carer. Only 11% cited concern about their employer and the way they would be perceived.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: “The fact that more than half of fathers want to make use of shared parental leave shows how far we have come on the journey towards shared care and shared careers. Good news for families but also good news for the economy.

“Father willingness and aspiration is there. As we embark on EU exit negotiations, the Government has said it wants to protect and enhance the rights people have at work. An excellent place to start would be making shared parental leave a day-one right for fathers. ”

A quarter of fathers did not know about shared parental leave according to Working Families’ survey, which was supported by DaddiLife, an online community which helps dads to navigate through their own journey of fatherhood.

Take-up of shared parental leave has so far been low. Figures for the first three months of 2016 show that 3,000 people received statutory shared parental pay. CIPD research in December 2016 suggested just 5% of new fathers and 8% of new mothers had opted to take shared parental leave since it was introduced in April 2015.

Jackson said: “Families are unlikely to make use of shared parental leave unless it makes financial sense for them to do so. The Government should consider equalising statutory maternity pay and shared parental pay – to prevent shared parental leave being a second-class option and encourage more fathers to use it.”

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) and shared parental pay are paid at broadly similar levels but only SMP includes a provision to pay 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks. No such provision is made for shared parental pay; mothers’ partners are paid just £140.98 per week, the same weekly rate as the rest of their leave.

“Employers going beyond the minimum pay for shared parental leave would also make it a more realistic option for more families,” added Jackson.

XpertHR research last year found that employers that enhance shared parental pay are twice as likely to receive shared parental leave requests as those that only offer the statutory rate.

To help increase awareness of shared parental leave, Working Families has collaborated with Alliance Manchester Business School, Lancaster University School of Management and the Fatherhood Institute to create a series of videos, including the one above showing first-hand experiences of parents who have used the scheme.

Next year, shared parental leave is expected to be extended to allow grandparents to take time off work to care for their grandchildren.

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