Shared Parental Leave: A Strategy for Engagement and Retention
Updated: Sep 10
Shared Parental Leave uptake is still low, but with some simple conversations, leaders can create positive change. Less than 5% of fathers take Shared Parental Leave, a recent UK Government report shows that employer support can positively drive uptake.
In June 2023, the UK Government published their Shared Parental Leave Evaluation Report, this offers some key findings on the success of Shared Parental Leave (SPL).
SPL was introduced by the UK Government in 2015 to offer parents’ choice and flexibility in how they care for their child, enabling both parents to retain a strong link with the labour market, retaining talent in the workforce long term and contributing to closing the gender pay gap. It also provided more time for fathers or other non-child bearing parents to play a greater caring role, making bonding with their children easier, a key driver for so many who take the leave.
Mothers still have the right to 52 weeks of maternity leave, however, if they do not intend to use their full maternity entitlement they can ‘share’ the remaining pot of leave and pay with the child’s father/their partner. There is more flexibility with SPL as it can be taken in blocks and swapped between parents.
Within the UK Government report, survey evidence shows: support from employers is one of the key factors affecting parents’ decision to take up SPL.
So what can leaders within the energy industry do to positively drive change?
Firstly, it’s important to recognise why SPL should be supported. For some leaders, it may be difficult to see why this is a good thing – why would they want to lose a highly performing member of their team for months? That just causes hassle, arranging cover and ensuring handovers are robust.
But this is a bigger-picture, longer-term strategy, and the philosophy doesn’t just apply to parents.
If you want to retain people, you need find ways to support them with their broader life goals.
Fathers want to be more involved with caring responsibilities, they want more time to bond
with their children and they want to support their partners in their life ambitions, which may involve returning to work.
The Millennial Dad at Work survey conducted by DaddiLife and Deloitte found that fathers
were moving jobs to find ‘flexibility to fulfil parental responsibilities’. A separate study found that two thirds of parents would take a pay cut to be able to work more flexibly around their children.
Showing support for SPL and other forms of flexible working will increase long-term retention in your business. Being vocal about your support starts to drive an inclusive culture within which people feel supported and valued.
In addition, the economic benefits are closing the gender pay gap and reducing mental health issues are set out in the AXIS Network blog, Paternity Leave: Why Leaders Should Act Now. The same arguments are applicable here.
Leaders shouldn’t underestimate the power of their positive influence.
So you have an expectant father or partner in your team – what do you do next? Here are our top tips on how to engage:
Check in with them early: have a chat to ensure they know about SPL and HR have been through it with them. If knowledge is missing, create the link between HR and your employee, ensure that they are well informed of their choices.
Be direct: don’t leave your employee guessing about your support for SPL, make sure you are clear and ensure you let them know you’re keen to support them through this life change.
Be clear on what you’re looking for: do you need early notice to be able to arrange backfill more easily? Is there a mutually agreeable time that would work best for both parties? Keep the conversation going, keep it positive and keep it solution driven.
Recognise that this is a big change for your employee: stretch those empathy muscles, big changes drive stress, they may not know anyone who has taken SPL before, try to link them in with other people who have or send them to the AXIS Network website where we have some great SPL role models to read about.
Be vocal about your support: let the rest of the team know that it’s important this is a success and that you’re fully behind it. This will stop any negative responses to the news.
Think about their return: with any form of leave away from the office, people are often nervous about returning. Talk about what to expect, how you’ll keep in touch & how to make their return as easy as possible.
On a wider company scale, ensuring that information about SPL is easily available on internal systems and spotlighting examples of people who have taken SPL can all contribute to an informed workforce who feel supported with their life decisions.
The UK Government’s Shared Parental Leave Evaluation Report states: ‘The provision of family-friendly policies and parents’ increased satisfaction with their work-life balance has a positive relationship with their commitment to their employer and may lead to a more productive workforce in the long-term.’
A short-term investment in SPL could lead to a long-term benefit in a retained and engaged workforce.
Leaders supporting Shared Parental Leave is a win-win for everyone.