February 13, 2020
Employers should prepare themselves for a dramatic rise in staff taking shared parental leave, a new research report into shifting attitudes to flexible working and childcare for working parents has claimed. While only 7 percent of employees with children have taken up the opportunity of shared parental leave so far, 38 percent of those planning to have further children intend to do so when they have their next child, YouGov polling of 1,000 employees and 500 HR decision makers suggests.
Louise Lawrence, a partner at law firm Winckworth Sherwood, which commissioned the research, commented: ‘The statutory scheme for shared parental leave is complex, and it’s relatively low paid, but nevertheless a major shift could be upon us.
‘As societal norms change and fathers feel more able to request time off, families may decide they want to share responsibilities more equally. Pay is clearly important and if employers decide to match their enhanced maternity pay, we expect to see more take up of shared parental leave. Increasingly, both parents may seek extended time away from work and employers should plan for this eventuality.’
Disconnect between employers and employees
The report covers a range of issues which employers are increasingly embracing to maintain a competitive edge – including working from home, core and flexible hours, and extended leave.
While 12 percent of employees admit they would lack motivation or be too distracted to work from home, nearly double the proportion of HR decision makers (23 percent) are concerned about whether they can trust employees to work from home.
It shows a disconnect between employers and employees in attitudes to flexible working. While 12 percent of employees admit they would lack motivation or be too distracted to work from home, nearly double the proportion of HR decision makers (23 percent) are concerned about whether they can trust employees to work from home.
‘Issues around trust by managers can be reduced by recruiting the right talent, focusing on outcomes rather than time spent, engaging with managers to get them on board with flexible working practices and ensuring that there is a regular two-way dialogue between managers and employees”, Lawrence said.
8 in 10 offer flexible working
Although employers reported other difficulties – from limited IT systems to cultural objections – the survey suggests there is such clear momentum behind flexible working that organisations are introducing it anyway. More than three quarters of employers said there are barriers of some kind to flexible working in their organisation but 8 in 10 nonetheless offer it in some form. This is perhaps recognition that talented employees may otherwise look for jobs elsewhere, the report notes, and so it is worth overcoming any obstacles.
The report comes shortly after the announcement in the Queen’s Speech of a new employment bill, in which flexible working is proposed to become a default position for all employers.
‘How this will be implemented is, as yet, not known and the government plans to consult’, said Lawrence. ‘However, it’s clear which way the wind is blowing and that organisations need to plan ahead.
‘Among the report’s recommendations is that organisations should implement a formal flexible working policy. Many employers don’t yet have this. Any policy should make clear to the employee their rights, what they can request and what flexibility is available for a particular role or team or more widely across the organisation. That will support the open discussions that employers need to have with their employees and job applicants, if they are to continue to retain and recruit the best talent.’
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