New research from UK executive coaching company, Talking Talent (www.talking-talent.com), reveals that nearly half (46 percent) of fathers would take advantage of the new shared parental leave, which comes into force in April 2011. One third (33 percent) of survey respondents said they don’t plan to use the leave, and 18 percent were undecided. But, Talking Talent suggests the onus lies with UK business leaders, if the legislation is going to work.
As part of the Labour government’s commitment to give choice and flexibility to parents, it announced its intention to introduce Additional Paternity Leave for fathers of children due on or after 3 April 2011. This legislation will go ahead, and will give fathers a right to up to six months extra leave which can be taken once the mother has returned to work.
The survey also highlighted that more than two thirds (70 percent) of new dads plan to use all of their current two-week paternity entitlement, and three quarters (75 percent) took all the allocated time away from work, following the birth of their last child.
When asked if they would have made use of new extended parental leave, had it been available last time around, nearly half (47 percent) of the dads surveyed said they would have – reinforcing the above finding.
Not surprisingly, the barriers to adoption include: financial pressures, workload and fear of going against traditional cultural stereotypes, where the responsibility for childcare traditionally falls to a women. Respondents also feared that taking additional leave may be impossible given their work responsibilities, and damage their earning potential.
When it came to investigating who takes time off to care for a sick child 57 percent of respondents said it was the partner, or woman. When asked why, the majority advised that the women tended to be in part-time employment, or were full-time mothers.
Chris Parke, co-founder and managing director of Talking Talent, commented: “From a corporate point of view, this new legislation will help create a more diverse workforce, and it will support organisations in maintaining career momentum for women. And, for those families where the woman is the main bread winner, or whose career takes precedence, the legislation will really provide them with greater choice and flexibility.
“But, I believe that business leaders have two considerations to make when it comes to the parental leave legislation. Firstly, they need to look at how they plan to extend their statutory pay around paternity. And, secondly, they may need to consider how they would change their corporate culture so that men are encouraged to take additional paternity leave without it being viewed in a negative way or damaging to their careers.
“For this legislation to work, the UK needs to look closely at countries like Norway and Sweden which have undergone a cultural shift in terms of maternity/paternity leave and it is the norm in society for either parent to take on the main childcare role. Companies and the government need to proactively encourage men to share the leave if this progressive law is to succeed. There is increasing pressure these days for men to work all hours, but a balance needs to be struck.”
Talking Talent is soon to launch a new website providing advice and support to new fathers. Currently, the company is the only UK provider of seminar and coaching programmes to support new fathers through its ‘New Dad’s Programme’.