Is shared parental leave affecting career progression?

Shared Parental Leave was introduced to support working parents with their work-life balance, helping working mothers to return to work more quickly. However with many working parents reluctant to take up the extra allowance they are entitled to, there are evident concerns from both mothers and fathers around the concept of sharing Parental Leave and affects on both career progression and workplace culture.

Research from the Pew Research Center has found that 56% of working parents admit to finding it difficult to find a work-life balance.  In many situations, this has affected perceptions of career progression, with one in three saying parenthood interferes with work, and women twice as likely as men to find starting a family a setback in terms of personal career development.

There are also concerns around the perception of parents who return to work after taking leave, according to a study conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This found that 50% of new mothers returning to work felt they were given fewer opportunities to progress in their careers, with 1 in 10 saying they felt mistreated on their return and some even saying they were sacked or made redundant as a result.

Concerns are not only limited to working mothers. A joint study by My Family Care and Hogan Lovells has found that six months since the introduction of Shared Parental Leave, fathers have been reluctant to take up the extra allowance, with 60% of HR directors receiving little, if any, requests of this nature. For 41% of working fathers, this is mainly due to perceptions of workplace culture and how it could be perceived by others in and around the office.

Iain McMath, CEO of Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services comments;

“Balancing work with family life can be tricky for most parents. Shared Parental Leave is an excellent opportunity for working parents to split the load of childcare and can facilitate personal development by allowing a quicker return to work.  It is a shame, therefore, to see that many have been reluctant to take up this opportunity over concerns around career progression. Employers should encourage staff by ensuring the options and benefits are well communicated, eliminating any concerns around perceived discrimination and negative workplace culture that employees may have.”

Shared Parental Leave became law on 1st December 2014. Find out more how it works >