The 2022 Parental Leave Study has revealed that 1 in 6 parents felt their career opportunities reduced after simply requesting parental leave.

Almost a quarter of employees (23%) reported that the stress of work affected their ability to have children.

Over 16 percent delayed having children because of their career.

Also, almost 3 in 5 (57%) employees believe their company’s parental leave policy and attitude to new parents is inadequate. Paternity leave for male employees (59%) and maternity leave for female employees (55%) were both reported to fall short.

For prospective employees, parental leave policies were reported to be important, with 1 in 20 having turned down a job or not applied for a job directly because of the parental leave policy.

 

How can HR help?

To achieve change, companies must embrace new, flexible working models. The most popular ‘wants’ from employees hoping for improved parental leave policies upon their return for work were flexible working hours (45%) and remote working (45%).

A quarter (22%) of employees want their company to increase their rates of maternity/paternity pay.

It is crucial that companies make it financially viable for their employees to take parental leave.

 “Now is the time for bold and honest conversations,” says Head of Working Parents at Talking Talent, Lucinda Quigley. “Businesses must be ready to listen and create real change, especially given that the pandemic has changed people’s considerations about the companies they work for, whilst also shifting family priorities.”

 

What will parental leave policies achieve?

Director of Employment Law at Citation, Gill McAteer, says: “Those who feel supported by their employers, and are clear about what their entitlements are, will feel much more comfortable making plans to start a family. Employees who are unsure of their workplace’s policy can often feel disengaged and stressed, which may lead to them putting off plans to have children as they feel like they are not ready.”

“Parental leave policies should be clear on employee entitlements and be available to everyone, with the aim of creating a supportive working environment. For employers looking to enhance their policies, they may consider adopting a family-friendly approach, with flexible or hybrid working, which would be well received by many of those who have families or are planning to do so,” adds McAteer.

Quigley warns the dangers of employers not improving or creating sufficient parental leave policies: “The pandemic has led many people to re-examine their careers, futures and the way they want to work. Any companies not offering the right support and company culture could find their high-talent individuals eschew them in favour of more forward-thinking firms – which will be disastrous for long-term company success.”

Ensuring your company has sufficient parental leave policies not only adheres to wellbeing concerns, but reduces the risk of losing highly skilled employees, which is ever more important with the growing skills crisis.

Ensuring sufficient parental leave policies is important for both employee wellbeing and business growth.