Majority of UK believe childcare should be shared equally between couples

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More than half of the UK believes that childcare should be shared equally between parents, a survey by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has found.

The findings show a marked move away from the old attitude that the bulk of childcare responsibilities to should be borne by the mother. Some 53% of those questioned said that childcare should be the equal responsibility of both parents while a further 22% believe that a couple should have the right to choose how they divide caring responsibilities, depending on their circumstances.

Just 22% of those surveyed believe that childcare should be the mother’s main responsibility, with 56% of men thinking that childcare should be shared equally, compared to 50% of women.

The research was carried out ahead of the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), which will apply to parents of babies born or adopted from 5th April 2015. The new rules mean that parents can split 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay between them in the baby’s first year. SPL also lets parents suggest a flexible pattern of leave to their employer and allows for up to three separate blocks of leave, but employers can agree to more.

When parents were questioned, two-thirds said that they would have considered sharing parental leave if it had been available at the time. This was higher amongst fathers, of whom 75% said they would have considered it compared with 63% of women.

For those considering having children in the future, four in five (83%) said they would consider taking shared parental leave when they became parents.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg commented:

“This Edwardian notion that women should stay at home while men go out and support the family has simply no place in this day and age. We need a modern Britain and a fair society that works for families, not against them. 

“We know that mums and dads want more flexibility and choice when it comes to juggling their home and work lives and we’re listening and taking action. 

“That’s why we’ve introduced shared parental leave so that parents can make their own decisions about how to raise their family, whether it’s giving women the choice to go back to work earlier or men the opportunity to spend more time with their children.”

Employment relations minister Jo Swinson, said:

“Becoming a parent is an amazing, life-changing event.  Helping new parents negotiate the balance between their work and family responsibilities will benefit employers through greater staff retention and loyalty.

“This survey shows people are rejecting dated stereotypes about the roles of men and women.  Parenting is a shared endeavour and couples want more flexibility when they are adapting to the demands of a new baby.  Shared parental leave will let couples choose how to share their childcare responsibilities in whatever way works best for them, and enable both parents to spend time developing that vital bond with their baby in the early stages.”

When men were asked what they thought the main benefits of shared parental leave would be, six in 10 said they thought they would form a closer bond with their child. However almost half (44%) said it would feel fairer, and 39% said they could let their partner get back to their job or progress their career.

Over half of men (57%) thought that being more involved in the baby’s life would be a good thing for their whole family, and 31% felt it would strengthen their relationship with their partner.

Brendan Lynch, a 31 year old legal caseworker from Cardiff, took three months of leave to care for his son Isaac, while his wife Laura went back to work. He commented

The bond you get with your child is the best thing about it. Getting to experience looking after a child full time is invaluable – I understand his likes and his personality so much better. Within the three months I was looking after him he had changed so much. It’s great that both my wife and I got to see different aspects of his development.”

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Firstly you state over half the UK believes this – that is incorrect. You do not know that. You have done a survey and on projecting from that therefore you could say the survey indicates that half of the UK believes this.

    HOwever it is my contention that if you had surveyed outside of the London elite, you would find a very different story. Many families I know have one partner working part time or self employed working their own hours around school days. This is mainly because the husbands are hanging on to jobs by the skin of their teeth really and are having to live abroad or away from home during the week. There are others where one partner travels a lot for work or has meetings to attend at short notice in eg London so there is no way the other partner could devote themselves fully to a full time difficult job. Many of the families who claim they are doing this are also paying people to care for the children or to clean their houses or cook meals etc. But if one partner is working away, the other partner has to be there to keep everything going. And the children of two 9-5 workers who are out of the house 8-6 really probably suffer. There is no-one to keep an eye on them as teenagers during the day, to encourage them to study when on exam leave rather than roam the streets. And who is going to pick up the 11 and 12 year olds etc who have miles to walk home from school when its snowy dark and icy now that our local school finishes at 4pm on a dark winters evening. There are no school buses any more so personally I think parents are needed to do these tasks. We also have elderly parents to look after. Among my close friends, most have lost at least one parent but I think most have parents who either have dementia or are physically now needing help or have carers calling. And they need us to help out as well. So please look up from your corporate desks and have a look out at the real world out there ! Then maybe we can start to get some proper funding to give the support that families really need !

  2. When I do look up from my corporate desk I’m reminded of the fact that I’m years off being able to afford a house, let alone start a family.

    Thank you for your comment. The information we have on the survey states that Opinion Matters surveyed 2,138 UK adults between 4th and 11th December 2014, 1,232 of these being parents.

    I agree that when both parents work it can be tough on families. Why would such parents be against Shared Parental Leave though? Unless it’s a case of eligibility?

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