Shared Parental Leave

The legislation imposed for Shared Parental leave has not been utilised as had been expected in broad circles. The attempt to instigate greater gender equality both at the workplace and domestically has been failing and will most likely continue to do so as there are simply not enough incentives for fathers to take leave from their employment. The idea that grandparents could also be incorporated into shared parental leave have led critics to believe that even less fathers would want to take any time off work.

Incidentally, if surveys are a good indication then it is not lack of interest that is causing the failure of this policy. The policy has started a discussion regarding the reasons why fathers are less likely to opt to remain with their children, despite a growing interest, especially in the younger generation of doing so.

As a result, data began to be gathered regarding fathers in preparation for the Shared Parental Leave legislation. There had been a vast amount of data collected with regards to mothers, yet a very limited amount regarding fathers.

Society has changed in a huge way over the last two or three generations as a result of women entering into the workplace. The notion of gender equality within the workplace has taken a central role in political debates across the western world for many years, and the situation has slowly improved, yet much remains to be done for true gender equality.

Fathers who wish to spend time with their children while the mother becomes the main breadwinner face stigmatisation from peers and those in their social circle. The aim of Shared parental leave is to put the focus on the entire family as opposed to just the mother.

Sharing the care of the child is the aim of the policy, and the belief is that flexibility and cooperation will lead to more motivated and happier employees. Supporting fathers is good for the business as well.

There has been a threefold increase of fathers working part time in order to have more time to spend caring for their children since 1992. This is largely due to government efforts to introduce legislation from 2002 which allows the right to at least act for flexible working. Since 2014, the right for flexible working has been extended to everyone, making it more mainstream and normative, and not exclusive to parents alone.

Many employers have made huge steps towards allowing greater amounts of flexibility in the workplace. However, those that haven’t should be made aware of the benefits that Shared Parental Leave can have for their company.

The first imperative thing is to enable fathers to communicate within the workplace. It was found that over 87% of fathers would welcome the chance to spend more time with their children, yet found it difficult or impossible to discuss the issue with bosses. Allocating a person to deal with the specific issues would be helpful, as well as forums, discussion groups or surveys.

Workshops could be another way to introduce the topic of parenting and work life balance. This could be an ideal place where fathers could maintain a support network with each other.

Written By:

Daniel James


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