The government said today that despite around 285,000 couples each year qualifying for shared parental leave, actual take-up could be as low as two per cent.
Half of the general public aren’t even aware that the option exists for parents.
The announcement came as part of a new drive from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to encourage more parents to take the offer during their baby’s first year.
The current setup allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after having a baby. They can take time off separately or they can be at home together for six months.
Shared parental leave was introduced in 2015 as a way to offer choice to parents and encourage employers to retain talent within their workforce, but take-up has been slow.
The government’s new advertising campaign is aiming to show that parents can share childcare and maintain their careers with shared parental leave. It will encourage those who have taken up the leave to share how the experience helped them.
Business minister Andrew Griffiths said the scheme “gives choice to families”.
“Employers can reap the benefits too. We know that flexibility in work is proven to create happier, more loyal and more productive workforces,” he said.
Critics of the policy have said people find it unclear how the system would work for their families and career, and that part of the hindrance stems from perception troubles.
Law firm EMW previously carried out research into shared parental leave take-up and said: “Fathers in particular, could be concerned about coming across as less committed to their job if they ask for greater flexibility – deterring them from looking into it.”
Minister for women, Victoria Atkins, said:
Providing parents with choice and flexibility in how they balance childcare responsibilities is a key step towards achieving equality in the workplace and beyond.
She added that the government was “determined to tackle and ultimately close the gender pay gap”.
“To do this, we need to support women to fulfil their potential in the workplace – and giving women the choice to share childcare with their partners is crucial to that effort,” Atkins said.
As part of a plan to tackle the gender pay gap, the government has also said that firms in the UK with more than 250 employees have until the beginning of April to publish details on their gender pay gap.
At present, 884 of around 9,000 businesses that need to do so have published the data. Those that fail to provide the information could face unlimited fines and convictions, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.