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Employers failing to back paternity leave

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Male employees are being put off from taking advantage of shared parental leave schemes due to the attitudes of their employers, research claims.

A study published today by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) suggests fewer than 10% of new fathers take more than two weeks of paternity leave.

Among managers this figure falls to 2%, with greater pressure to return to work quoted as the main reason for returning early. A quarter of men do not take any leave after the birth of a child.

The research was carried out ahead of the introduction of new rules on shared parental leave, to be rolled out in 2015.

Of the 1,000 employees surveyed, only 37% said they believed their employers were supportive of the new shared parental leave programmes. More than half (58%) said they believed their employers were supportive of men taking two weeks leave after the birth of a child. This is compared to 63% who felt their employer supported women taking the full allocation of one year after giving birth.

The other main factor behind low uptake of paternal leave is pay, according to the findings. Only 9% of men are given full pay for more than two weeks, whereas 70% of women are paid the equivalent of their full salary for the first 38 weeks.

ILM chief executive Charles Elvin told HR magazine the culture around shared parental leave needs to be addressed for progress to be made. "This is something that managers need to be proactive about promoting. It's not enough to just hope people take it up," he said. 

Elvin also emphasised the effect these attitudes are having on women's career progression. "The attitudes on parental leave are a factor in women not getting into senior roles," he said. "The imbalance it creates mean women are being held back. If we can go some way to redressing the balance we will see more women making it to the top and holding leadership roles."