8TH March 2022
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Break the Bias”. There are so many biases around gender that it’s impossible to count them, but one of the most significant is the differing expectations between working mothers and working fathers. One way to reduce this bias is to improve the uptake in shared parental leave (SPL).
SPL was introduced in the UK in 2015. This was a sign that the government was recognising a core gender bias in the workplace, where mothers are expected to be the primary carer of children. Gender pay gaps are often linked to working mothers who take career breaks, or work part time. This pay gap can create a vicious cycle in families with different-sex parents, giving a higher financial incentive for fathers to return to work or to work full time.
Shared parental leave enables parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay in the first year of a child being born or placed within their family. So far uptake has been low, with research suggesting that less than 2% of those eligible for SPL took up the opportunity between 2020 and 2021.
We asked two of ADP’s employees who recently took SPL to share their thoughts on the scheme.
Prashilla Fisher is a project architect in our Oxford studio, and was the first to participate in the scheme at both ADP and her husband’s workplace. She took SPL after the arrival of each of her two sons.
“Initially my husband’s work weren’t even fully aware of the scheme, and questioned his eligibility. After completing his shared leave he was viewed, in part, as a role model for others parents at his work, who were in a similar position and were interested in taking part. This highlights that the scheme is still in its infancy and that more is needed to encourage parents – particularly fathers – to feel confident to take part.
“Once arranged it was fairly straightforward, and we are both glad that we could share the experience of looking after the children at this early and important developmental stage. We swapped for two months, so I went back to office whilst my husband looked after my son. We then swapped back and I continued with my maternity leave. My husband was initially anxious about the impact of two months away from the workplace, and the potential perceived lack of dedication from senior staff, and whether this would have any impact on his career prospects. This gave him some insight into the challenges that women often face after a whole year away, with missed networking, promotions and professional development opportunities.
“The scheme enabled me to return to some normality after the chaos of childcare in the initial months. I was able to return to work, sit down and enjoy a cup of tea. I was able to catch up on projects which I had spent months working on previously. I was also reassured with the thought that my husband had the opportunity to spend quality time with our sons, and also understand both the challenges and thrills of full-time childcare.
“At the end of the two months we both had a greater appreciation of each other’s perspectives, and were grateful to have had the opportunity to share experiences in bringing up our sons.”
Simon Beaumont-Orr, an associate director from our Oxford studio, took a month of SPL to spend time with his second child.
“At around the time of our first child, one of my friends mentioned taking shared parental leave. This wasn’t something I had been particularly aware of before, so when we were lucky enough to be expecting another child I put in my request with work for a month of shared parental leave.
“As it got closer to the time I started to feel a little anxious: I was only off for a month, but what projects or opportunities would I miss out on during this time? This gave me a small insight into some of the concerns for mothers when embarking on maternity leave.
“Shared parental leave is something that I would recommend to colleagues, friends and family in a similar position as a rare opportunity to spend that priceless time with kids. Maternity leave and the potential pausing of careers shouldn’t be something only borne by mothers, and companies should do all they can to support parents on leave.
“The time provided a bit of balance and appreciation of both our roles, as well as the difficulties in juggling children and work. That said, I will still get in trouble down the pub for ignoring the obvious signs that the kids need to be in bed and saying yes to the dessert menu!”
Marketing and Communications Director
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