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3 months ago by Libby McCaughey

Do Dads Find Parental Leave Easier to Get Than to Take?

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The importance of supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace continues to be a priority for organisations globally. Taking a fresh prospective on equal paid parental leave benefits for both men and women seemed fitting, post Father’s Day.

Around 40% of parental leave taken is by men, however many still describe men taking paternity leave as the “kiss of death”. In major Wall Street investment banking firms’, bankers say corporate culture undermines generous policies. Currently men who work in the biggest US bank can take up to 16 weeks of parental leave. However, many agree that they feel it is easier for companies to tweak policies than it is to actual change company culture which shapes the way people think and act.

But why is there such a stigma when it comes to childcare, even though more men are eager to share it. These traditional gender roles are outdated and quite frankly unhelpful, so what is already being done to improve the situation and what are companies’ future plans?

According to UK laws, “an employee can take 1 to 2 weeks of paternity leave from the day the child is born till 56 days” while mothers are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave.With the statutory pay amount up to £145.18 on 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lowest. Perhaps men are reluctant to take leave due to reduced pay, after all money can cause a lot of stress in life.

Insurance and savings business Aviva addressed this concern back in 2017 when they reconstructed their paternity leave policy. All parents are now eligible for the same amount of paid and unpaid time off, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender or how they became a parent. They offer 12 months paternal leave, including six months at full pay, with parents able to take this at any time within the first year. “We just thought that dads would want to spend time with their children from the first day, just as mums do”

Aviva saw an immediate embracing of their new policy, with around 500 parents take time off, with almost half being male. They anticipated that men might be reluctant to take up their new offer due to peer pressure, wary of how it might affect their career.

Within the world of finance and insurance, it’s no surprise that some would say men who ask to take the parental leave their companies offer are practically asking to get fired. However, Aviva found that on average dads took 21 weeks to spend time with their children. 

Many dads have said it has helped them to understand what women have experienced for generations; worries about perceived commitment to work, balancing family and career, and anxieties about returning. They have become more sensitive to others’ situations, so this fresh perspective is invaluable. 

It is clearly imperative to train managers and leaders about company policies however, the change needs to be deeper! Revamping outdated company cultures, to ensure that men don’t feel ashamed to take time paternal leave. An employee at IBM said “people believe they’re more important than they are struggle to disconnect. It’s one thing to have the policy to take the leave. It’s another thing to take it.”

Understandably, equal parental leave is not going to bring about workplace equality overnight, but it is a step in the right direction, breaking down gender stereotype barriers.