Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Why Men Won't Ask for Shared Parental Leave

Last month also saw the introduction of new regulations for Shared Parental Leave which will apply to children expected or adopted after 5th April.

Also subject to some criticism from the usual places, eg the IOD call it a nightmare, this is clearly a great move forward.  Firstly because it doesn't mandate the change which is required (at least in terms of enhanced pay) but simply encourages a more progressive response, much more effectively than additional paternity pay managed to do.

And secondly because if we're ever going to achieve equal pay, we've got to have more equal treatment in businesses and in the home as well.  So policies for things like parental leave obviously need to be more equal too.

I talk about all of this in the Sky Sunrise interview embedded above.

But the other thing we discuss is Glassdoor's recent research suggesting only 23% of men agree that both parents should share leave with 40% expecting that the mother should take the bulk of the leave and 20% suggesting that the leave would be taken by the lowest earner, which means the mum in the majority of cases.

Just 10% of the men would want to take the bulk of the leave themselves and 15% would want to share it between the partners.

This means that there are still some entrenched attitudes in place.

My worry is that whilst men are generally the best paid they'll tend to opt out of childcare, and the continuing split in childcare responsibilities will act to keep pay differences as they are (I know time off for childcare isn't the only factor behind this, but it certainly is a contributor.)  So despite the new regulations we end up in a repeating cycle which keeps things pretty much as they already are.

The survey findings also only leaves about 15% of mean who would want to have a proactive conversation with their partner about what they want to do - reflecting not only on their salaries and career prospects but also on what they want to do - their life ambitions and what sort of role they want in the upbringing of their child.  And ideally of course what would be in the child's best interest too.

Having a child is bound to result in big life changes and has got to be worth more in-depth conversation than the research suggests is likely.

We're going to need employers to put some proactive support and promotion behind the new regulations if we're going to break through these difficulties.

In particular I point back to some other Glassdoor research which suggested that women are nervous about asking for information on maternity benefits.  If women are nervous about this then men are very unlikely to want to ask about something they don't feel particularly comfortable about anyway.

Employers need to promote the policy and ensure that organisational cultures are supportive to men, as well as women, asking for, and taking off, shared parental leave.

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