Take up of shared parental leave constrained by traditional attitudes

a father and child illustrating the importance of shared parental leaveDespite the introduction of shared parental leave rights, more than half of UK adults still think that women be the primary carers of babies and children, according to the latest British Social Attitudes Survey. Despite this, there has been a notable shift in attitudes over the last seven years, according to the researchers from the National Centre for Social Research.

Not all of the attitudes are based on traditional attitudes to parental responsibilities however. As Sarah King argued on Insight recently, take up is also constrained by the complexity of the system of parental leave and the restrictions of paternity leave.  “It seems unlikely that the unpaid eight weeks of the new paternity leave scheme would be taken up by most fathers, particularly since most families struggle financially during the maternity period, when the mother is already typically receiving reduced pay,” she wrote.

The researchers looked at whether views on working mothers had changed since the introduction in 2015 of shared parental leave, which allowed parents to split the legal right to time off work between them and extended the right to request flexible working arrangements. They asked 1,302 adults last year how parents should divide childcare duties and compared these with the answers to similar questions in 2012.

Asked how paid parental leave should be split, 34 per cent said that each parent should take half, up from 22 per cent in 2012. Forty per cent said the mother should take most of the leave and 12 per cent thought that the mother should take the entire amount. The remaining 13 per cent were unable to choose. The researchers also claim that there is a stronger correlation between traditional attitudes to parental care with people who work in small businesses and those with fewer qualifications. Those saying each should take half tended to, work in larger organisations, be younger and have more qualifications.