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Shared parental leave: Level the playing field

By Barney Ely, Director of Hays Human Resources

As the low uptake of shared parental leave makes headlines, it strikes me that many don’t see what this means for the wider condition of gender equality in the workplace. Shared parental leave isn’t just a means of sharing childcare responsibilities, it’s a gateway to achieving gender balance across the entire world of work.

By encouraging sharing of parental leave, women and men achieve an equal footing, and women need not be impacted as harshly by an extended career break. As it stands, the Hays Gender Diversity Report 2017 identified that only 28% of women were able to maintain the same job with the same hours after having children, compared to 55% of men. 

Shared parental leave, if managed well, can keep talented women in your company, grow loyalty and open up more career opportunities upon their return. As HR professionals, it’s our duty to make sure shared parental leave is more widely adopted, both to help ensure the success of our organisations, and increase opportunities for women overall.

Knowledge is power

To encourage increased uptake of the programme, you first have 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 parental 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 seeing 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 at the workplace to make it a more supportive environment for all, an effective method is to start early in a professional’s journey with your organisation.

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.

Open a dialogue

Get involved in internal communications and produce content which encourages the uptake of the programme. It needs to be communicated 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 – finally giving women a more level playing field.

Hays is pleased to have achieved the National Equality Standard (NES), one of the UK’s most rigorous and prestigious accreditations for equality, diversity and inclusion. 

About this author

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.

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