Just 2% of companies have seen significant uptake of Shared Parental Leave but 38% say they have experienced interest and momentum is building

Cultural perception identified as the biggest barrier to employees wanting to take up Shared Parental Leave

Luke-warm reception to grandparental leave; 21% of companies say they would introduce it

New research into the impact of Shared Parental Leave on businesses and their employees has revealed that while just 2 per cent of companies have experienced significant take up, 38 per cent say they have received interest and momentum is definitely building.

A joint study by My Family Care, the company that helps businesses introduce family friendly working practices, and law firm Hogan Lovells, revealed that 60 per cent of HR Directors had received none, to just a few requests to take up Shared Parental Leave.  The biggest barrier to change was identified as the cultural perception that an extended period of time off for a father would be frowned upon or career limiting with 41 per cent saying this was the biggest problem, followed by difficulty in employers communicating the options and the fact that they don’t enhance statutory benefits.

The research, which was undertaken at a Think Tank event held last week, to share employer experiences in SPL so far, also revealed that almost half (43 per cent) are enhancing Shared Parental Leave in line with their existing maternity benefits.  One in ten (12 per cent) said they don’t and don’t intend to for the foreseeable future while a third (33 per cent) said they are considering enhancing benefits once they better understand the business and financial impact of doing so.

Ben Black, Director at My Family Care said: “These results reveal just how effective Shared Parental Leave has been so far and answers the question – has it been the cultural change that people were all clamouring for.  The answer is not yet but the future looks very bright with many companies enhancing their paternity leave in line with their maternity benefits and 38 per cent of HRs seeing momentum building already.  

“However, if we are going to reach true gender equality in the workplace, it is fathers in leadership positions that need to be open about balancing their work and family and aren’t afraid to break the mould of their predecessors.  The most important revelation to come out of the debate was the need for visible role models; to position fathers who are taking SPL at the moment as a shining example to inspire others and help remove the taboo associated with taking time off to care for your new child.

Speaking about their own person experiences with Shared Parental Leave at the event included:

Tony Horan, Head of Human Capital Strategy, Leadership, Diversity & Inclusion and Employee Engagement at Accenture UK & Ireland

Carolanne Minashi, EMEA Head of Diversity, Employee Relations & Engagement at Citi

Eleanor Silverio, UK Benefits Policy Lead at Shell

Accenture & SPL

Accenture has 10,000 employees in the UK. Tony Horan says take up of shared parental leave across the company has so far been encouraging with 22 applicants from a range of career levels taking an average of 18 to 20 weeks off. He added that SPL is a vital element in adapting to the changing expectations of the workforce.

Tony says: “The younger generation of people coming into the workplace expect a better balance between their careers and their personal lives. Many new fathers and mothers expect an equal chance to be involved in the upbringing of their young children. It’s important that we adapt to that. We believe that having a bold and effective SPL policy will become an increasingly powerful tool in retaining our top talent while attracting the best people to Accenture.

“We are on the cusp of a big social change that will reduce the inequality of having children on the careers of mothers. Making childcare in the early years common to both parents will have a positive impact on the numbers of women employed at all levels in organisations.

Citi & SPL

Citi also has 10,000 employees in the UK with offices based in Canary Wharf, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast.  5 per cent of these become new parents each year.  In the six months since the launch of SPL, 11 employees have applied for SPL, taking an average of 16 weeks’ leave. Carolanne Minashi anticipates a doubling of applicants moving forwards due to the fantastic enhanced benefits that they offer their staff.

Carolanne says: “Interestingly, we have found that quite a few of the men who have taken the time off are those whose partners are at firms who don’t offer as good a maternity or paternity package as us.  So, because of Citi’s generosity, it could be perceived that we are losing our employees for longer than others but we believe we’re gaining loyalty, employee engagement and dedication in the long term, which is essential for business success.

“From Citi’s point of view, the introduction of SPL has been a success and while we’ve only got 11 fathers taking it up so far, it has delivered a choice they never had before – essentially helping to reconstruct the modern family.

Shell & SPL

Eleanor Silverio said: “At Shell, one of our key drivers is fairness to both the Company and our employees, therefore prior to making any decisions we started our preparation for introducing SPL by checking that our maternity policy was still fair and current.  As a result, we re-launched that on 1st April and then Shared Parental Leave shortly after.  To get the message across, we organised a number of webcasts, updated our online portals, put posters up and provided line managers and HR with toolkits to ensure they were prepared for the changes. 

“So far we have only had a limited uptake, however learnings from our Norwegian colleagues, where they have a similar, but slightly different scheme, suggest that it is a slow burn.  Feedback from those who have taken advantage of the new scheme is that they welcome the discontinuous nature of the leave which enables them to still be involved with key business engagements as necessary, although this has been one of the key challenges from a systems perspective.  They also welcome the equity of the policy and perceive it as a generous offering.

Eleanor concluded: “While SPL has been a slow burner we believe it is a new dawn for equality and are happy to be able to position SPL alongside our other ‘Agility’ benefits.  As the needs of employees evolve, we have to continue to find ways of ‘making work work’, not only to add to employees’ EVP, but also to give benefit to the company in terms of increased engagement and flexibility of our workforce.

Earlier this month George Osborne unveiled plans to introduce grandparental leave in 2018 where new parents could share their leave with their own parents.  When asked for their thoughts on the policy, just 21 per cent said they will welcome and actively encourage it amongst their staff while one in 10 (12 per cent) called it “a step too far.”  67 per cent said they were undecided.

Jo Broadbent, Counsel at Hogan Lovells described the introduction of the policy as “rather gimmicky” and highlighted the need for clarification on if the leave is to be shared with just two people or more.

Regarding Shared Parental Leave she said: “The introduction of SPL was one of the most ground-breaking changes in employee legislation of the last ten years.  While uptake has been relatively slow, the key thing is that individuals now have a choice; where new parents can discuss amongst themselves just how they would like to share parenting responsibilities and plan accordingly. Once the stigma surrounding fathers taking time off has been removed and word of the success of SPL is spread, we anticipate employers having a lot more interest from their staff.

To help businesses deal with the challenges of SPL implementation, My Family Care, together with Hogan Lovells, has compiled a downloadable set of resources to help   To download please click here.

And on Wednesday 11th November at 11am until 12pm, My Family Care will be holding a webinar where HR teams can log in and hear about other employers’ experiences and advice.  To register, click here.