Take up of Shared Parental Leave has been incredibly low ever since the policy came into play. In fact by the last account only 2% of eligible families had taken Shared Parental Leave since it’s introduction in 2015. The policy, which allows parents to share the first year’s leave after the birth of their baby, is a subject we’ve heard dads speaking in glowing terms about their own experiences. So why is take up so low?
We partnered with Workingmums.co.uk to explore the different perspectives at play and found that while the main reason for not taking it is financial, fewer than half of expectant parents surveyed were even discussing it:
“Some 43% of those who wouldn’t take it said it would not make sense financially. However, over half [66%] of these said enhancing Shared Parental Pay would not make a difference to their decision. In total 59% of all survey participants said enhancing SPP would not make a difference to their decision.”
The policy is still relatively new, and so has yet to take a firm foothold in many workplaces yet alone families, but with modern dads wanting to be more involved than ever, we wanted to find out the specific reasons why more shared parental leave pay wouldn’t necessarily mean more take-up, and why so few new parents were having those conversations about it in the first place.
Our survey insights with Working Mums found that:
- Mums didn’t want to share their leave [17%]
- Worries the dad’s career would suffer [12%]
- Didn’t know enough about it [11%]
- The legislation is too complicated [5%]
Beyond Shared Parental Leave Pay
During the course of the survey we were privileged to get first hand accounts from parents who had and had not taken SPL; the background around their decisions, what they’ve gained as a result, and what reflections they’ve had for their future family plans.
Taking SPL at the same time – Martin & Eulalia
“As a mother there is a sense you should be doing everything. I know [as a result of taking SPL] that Martin on a day to day basis is there, that he is involved with the kids. I could not have hoped for more. Shared Parental Leave is an illustration that he is absolutely there; it is a level of commitment he is illustrating.”
Martin and Eulalia took SPL with their second child, Luca – and maximized the leave by taking a number of months together.
With that leave they travelled for a short while, and established a parenting flow such that Martin now works compressed hours – where he does his weekly hours over the course of 4 days and gets an extra day with the kids. It works well as Eulalia is also on a flexible working pattern.
What amazed us in hearing their SPL story was the sheet amount of planning and preparation that went into the decision. With a significant lack of clarity on SPL information – out in the public domain or through work – Martin decided to create his very own spreadsheet to map out the various scenarios and processes. It’s something he said happened over the course of a few ‘weeks,’ but was totally worth it for the magical months they had together for Luca’s first few months.
Splitting the months between them for SPL – Sam & Gemma
“Having Rowan [and sharing parental leave] has given us a bit more rounded view on who we are as a family. It will take time for the culture and mindset to change. People of our age will be the next chief executives and MDs. We are the first generation to see the idea of taking extended time off as being a normal thing and not to be held against anyone.”
Planning was a similar feat for Sam and Gemma – but for Sam, what really fascinated us was just how much he knew he’s wanted SPL way before they even had Rowan! He credited a lot of it with having been raised by a single dad for a significant amount of his childhood, and some of those modern fatherly values have clearly stayed with him in parental life.
Didn’t think SPL was right for them for the first one – Elliott and Soneni
“I would have been open to taking Shared Parental Leave if my wife had been, but I was around enough. My most important thing was that my wife and daughter were okay…and what was best for the family unit.”
Elliott, who runs Musicfootballfatherhood, I found refreshing and honest. He said that he didn’t think about or really know much about SPL, and it only became an area of interest once he actually became a dad to Eleni.
He saw his role more aligned to ensuring that his wife had all the time she wanted, and I have massive respect for him for that. What I found interesting in their situation was how the decision was in part financial, but more about how they defined parental leave – and how they aligned to mum having all of it as being the right thing for them.
Time to start the conversation dad
What this study should show us, is that more families need to at least start having the adult conversations like Elliott, Sam and Martin have done to either rule it out properly, or in fact see what new possibilities are in fact open to new parents.
Whatever the decision, make sure it’s an informed one.