As the low uptake of shared parental leave continues to make headlines, it strikes me that we don’t see what this means for the wider condition of gender equality in the workplace. Shared parental leave is a gateway to achieving gender balance across the entire world of work and not just a means of sharing childcare responsibilities.
In making sure that the sharing of parental leave is encouraged, women and men can then work to achieve an equal footing, and women need not be impacted as much by an extended career break. Our Gender Diversity 2017 report for example found that only 28% of women were able to maintain the same job with the same hours after having children, compared to 55% of men.
If managed well, shared parental leave can help keep talented woman in your company, grow loyalty and open up more career opportunities on their return. As HR professionals, we need to ensure that shared parental leave is more widely adopted and better communicated to help business success and increase opportunities for women overall.
Knowledge is power
To help encourage an increased uptake of the programme, you need to be able to understand it. Shared parental leave is complex and still relatively new. This is often enough to put off new parents, which is why your HR teams need to be fully clued up and able to properly inform new parents of all of their options.
Knowing you are there to support their decisions and provide any information they require will encourage greater uptake and reduce some of the stigma for new fathers. This is an important factor to remember as 32% of our survey respondents believed men would be seen to be less committed to their career if they took their full allowance of parental leave.
Transform your culture
If your aim is to improve the culture within your workplace to make it a more supportive environment for all, an effective method is to start the communication process early in a new starter’s journey.
When recruiting new staff, introduce shared parental leave and any other childcare benefits as an aspect of your culture during the attraction and interview stage. Ensure that new employees are aware of their rights and on-board with your programmes from the start, and always feel that they are equally supported, regardless of their gender.
Keep an open dialogue
Make sure you are involved in internal communications and produce content which encourages the uptake of the programme. The crucial part is communicating that extended leave will not be detrimental to an employee’s career. This can be aided by putting career plans in place and instigating return to work schemes, to put mothers and fathers at ease when considering shared parental leave.
This will also help more women to hit the ground running when they return to work, helping to close the gender gap which appears at the more senior end of many professions.
By employing these techniques and realising the far-reaching benefits of shared parental leave, you can lead the way in bettering the condition of gender equality at your organisation enabling a more level playing field.
About Barney Ely
Barney Ely, Director of Hays Human Resources
Barney joined Hays in 1993 as a business graduate and is now Director for Hays Human Resources. Barney also has operational responsibility for Hays offices across the South of England, placing professionals in over 20 industry sectors covering everything from accountancy and finance to construction, IT education and healthcare.