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Is shared parental leave just an overly-expensive myth? The research is in

Research shows number of families choosing to share parental leave is low and it seems to be mostly about the money

Shared parental leave became fully available in April 2015, allowing parents to evenly split the paid time off work to care for their new baby and giving fathers more opportunity to be the primary care-giver.

In a recent survey, XpertHR found that only a third of the 397 organisations surveyed had received requests for paid parental leave from eligible staff. The number one reason parents cited for not sharing the available leave was financial affordability.

One employer surveyed said that families needed to have strong financial backing to take up the shared leave option. XpertHR’s Benchmarking editor Michael Carty agreed, saying that employers need to think about offering enhanced shared parental leave pay provisions in order to make it an affordable choice for parents.

This was borne out by the research which showed that in workplaces with enhanced parental leave options, twice as many parents were likely to request the leave than in organisations that only offered the government rate of £139.58 per week or 90 per cent of earnings, whichever is lower.

The number of parents eligible to take advantage of shared paid parental leave also seems to be an issue, with the research showing that only four staff from each of the almost four hundred organisations surveyed were actually eligible to apply for the leave.

Organisations with more than 1,000 staff received the highest percentage of requests for shared parental leave from eligible staff, almost 70 per cent, while smaller employers with less than 250 staff received requests from only 14.7 per cent of the staff who were able to apply.

Even parents were split when it came to who wanted to take time off from work to care for their child. High on the list of barriers to taking up the leave provision was the unwillingness of partners to share the leave. While 63 per cent of men with young children surveyed said they would like to take the opportunity to share parental leave, 55 per cent of women said they did not want to share the leave.

In addition, half of the men felt that taking shared parental leave would have a detrimental effect on their careers.

In addition to the low uptake, the survey showed that 60 per cent of employers felt that the new leave had not met the government’s objective of encouraging fathers to “play a greater caring role in the first year, via longer, more flexible shared leave.”

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