HR · 4 October 2017

One in three fathers believe taking parental leave will stall career progression

parental leave
Many new fathers take little or none of their parental leave entitlement

Almost a third of UK workers believe that men will be considered less committed to their job by their employer than women if they take shared parental leave, new research has uncovered.

Some 53 per cent of employees at UK businesses believe male colleagues don’t take the shared parental leave they’re entitled to when they become a father due to fears about the adverse impact on their personal finances.

A survey, conducted amongst 5,400 professionals by UK recruiter Hays, also revealed that even though 66 per cent of workers think flexible working measures could hold individual career progression, 78 per cent said shared parental would be a factor in improving workplace gender diversity.

The findings of Hays’ UK Gender Diversity Report 2017 showed that both male and female works continued to enjoy greater “freedoms” at UK companies to promote their skills and develop their careers, but that most acknowledged the obstacles to gender equalities that still exist.

Two years after the government introduced new shared parental leave laws, the vast majority of fathers aren’t taking the full allowance their parental leave entitles them, while 42 per cent of workers claim that new fathers are taking little or even none of their leave entitlement.

Commenting on the report’s findings, head of diversity at Hays UK & Ireland, Yvonne Smyth, urged UK businesses to do more to promote the benefits that are available to staff.

She said: “Whilst both men and women now feel they have more freedom to promote their skills, there are significant improvements needed to better communicate the benefits that are available, such as flexible working and shared parental leave, encouraging employees to take them up without fear of negative consequences.

Read more: An employer’s guide to shared parental leave and pay

“It’s concerning that although these initiatives are viewed as important options to both men and women and are directly associated with bridging the gender divide, employees are worried about the negative impact a leave of absence and more flexible working pattern may have on their career.”

Another major finding of the research was that the majority of workers, both male and female, claim that flexible working is crucial but negative perceptions prevent them from taking advantage of their rightful options.

Some 84 per cent of staff feel it’s important to have flexible working measures in place, but two-thirds believe using them will damage their career prospects.

The research showed that overall, negative perceptions of flexible working are currently outweighing the intended benefits to both businesses employees.

Smyth went on to say: “Employers need to be promoting communication and training on this to make sure senior leadership and middle management are better equipped to promote the benefits of these policies and address stated or unspoken concerns.

“Encouraging equality when returning to work can start before parental leave begins by improving communication to make it more culturally acceptable for parents to split their leave, helping support women and men who wish to continue their career progression after having children.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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