Only one in 20 (5%) new fathers have opted to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) since its introduction in April 2015, according to research from the CIPD.
The survey of more than 1,000 HR professionals found that only 8% of new mothers have opted for SPL, and just one organisation in five (21%) said they had received requests from male employees.
Rachel Suff, employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said a “step change” is needed. “Shared Parental Leave was a milestone for gender equality when it was introduced last year,” she said. “The intentions were right, and on paper it gives new parents much more choice and flexibility about taking leave to look after a new baby, particularly if the mother is the higher earner and if dads want to play a bigger role in their child’s early life.
“However, the complexity of the rules and the financial gap between statutory maternity pay and statutory shared parental pay in the early weeks are clearly outweighing these positives for many. [The] government needs to look at what steps can be taken to ensure SPL can bring a step change on the ground in the UK.”
When it comes to extending leave to grandparents, 27% of respondents said that it would be a positive step, while 25% thought SPL for mums and dads is a good idea but extending it to grandparents is a ‘step too far’.
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, suggested that extending the scheme to grandparents is not the answer. “Although the shared parental leave take-up figures are in line with government expectations, government and employers should now set their sights higher and tackle the barriers to fathers using it,” she said. “Extending it to grandparents – as the government has proposed – is a red herring that will further complicate and undermine the policy’s intention; to encourage fathers to share care of their new baby.”