A year ago, the Coalition Government introduced Additional Paternity Leave giving fathers a right to up to six months extra leave to be taken once the mother has returned to work.
Over the last year, executive coaching company, Talking Talent ran seminars, supporting approximately 300 new fathers through its ‘New Dad’s Programme’ coaching programme, however, during this time – the team only met a couple of men keen to take the additional paternity leave.
Chris Parke, co-founder and managing director of Talking Talent says, “We are disappointed by the low levels of take up of the additional paternity leave – clearly, it takes more than legislation to change the culture of an organisation.
“Many men are reluctant to take additional paternity leave because it is still a new concept and they are worried about any negative impact it may have on their careers, how they will be perceived by their boss and colleagues, and the financial implications.
We tend to find the majority of men having children for the first time work at a relatively junior level within a business and therefore feel they have a lot to prove. When their wife takes maternity leave, they become the only bread winner, and responsibility kicks in. Add to this the uncertain economic environment, and it is unsurprising the majority of men want to keep their heads down and maintain the status quo. However, all these factors have created barriers to adoption of the new legislation”.
“The aim of the legislation is to balance family life and to give working families more options. However for things to change, businesses need role models.”
In spite of the low levels of take up, Parke and his team are now beginning to see many companies being more progressive in terms of their support for working parents.
He adds: “Many companies are promoting extended paternity leave and rolling out innovative coaching programs to support men and women taking leave. This kind of approach will help to support a shift in mindset long-term.
“It would be wonderful to have a few precedents laid out, but I fear we are a long way from achieving a real status quo. The enviable standards reached by our Scandinavian neighbours seem little but a pipe dream at this stage. It boils down to changing the all-important cultural and financial issues.”