Shared parental leave take-up could be higher than media reports claim

News Article

Two surveys published to mark the anniversary of the introduction of shared parental leave suggest that its take-up could, in fact, be around 30 per cent, although more in-depth research is needed.

Widespread reporting that the take-up of shared parental leave was just 1 per cent has demonstrated the media’s appetite for an extreme headline, but may also have hidden much higher take-up than anticipated.

Shared parental leave became available for parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015. It allows working parents to share leave and pay, provided they qualify.

Research from My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council suggested that 1 per cent of men in the organisations surveyed – not 1 per cent of fathers as was widely reported – had taken up the opportunity of shared parental leave.

The combined survey of more than 1,000 individuals and 200 HR directors found that opting to take shared parental leave was deeply dependent on individual circumstances, particularly on their financial situation and levels of pay on offer from employers.

The 1 per cent figure was based on data from 200 HR directors about their organisations’ employees and was given as a proportion of all men employed, not as a percentage of fathers eligible to take shared parental leave.

Of the 1,000 employees surveyed, 10 per cent had had a baby or adopted a child in the past 12 months. Of this group, 24 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men said they had taken shared parental leave.

Whilst the subset is small, another piece of research by Totaljobs, amongst 628 respondents, revealed similar findings. Out of its 86 respondents that had a child in the past year, 31 per cent said they are using or had used their right to shared parental leave; 48 per cent did not use their right; and 21 per cent said they were not eligible.

With sample sizes of new parents so low, experts warned that it is difficult to place too much confidence in the data, although the fact the two surveys had similar figures for take-up among fathers was encouraging.

Lara Murray, an employment law expert with Palmers said: “If the 30 per cent figures are correct then take-up has been higher than expected which is good news, rather than the sensational headlines reported by many in the media.

“However, the number of employees and human resources personnel questioned represents a pretty small sample. Added to this, many employers will often not be aware whether or not men are eligible for shared parental leave until they apply. If someone’s partner has a baby and they choose not to tell their employer, they won’t show up in the records and this makes it extremely difficult to get a good overview of what is really happening.”

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