Do fathers want to work less to be with children? How some firms see better paternity pay and dad-friendly policies as a way to keep good workers happy.
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There's been no shortage of efforts to get new dads to spend more time with their babies and to help fathers work more flexibly, but many still seem reluctant to do so.
There are questions hanging over why this is?
Could it be down to inferior paternity leave pay making new dads feel that they cannot afford to take the fortnight off they are entitled to, or fathers feeling that a request for shared parental leave or flexible working will not be looked on favourably by the boss?
But while many paternity pay policies remain measly compared to maternity pay, some companies are actively boosting their parent and dad-friendly credentials to try and recruit and retain the best employees.
According to experts and research dad would take more paternity leave if they were better paid and felt the company culture enabled them to do so.
Paternity leave was first introduced in UK law in 2003 with men receiving statutory paternity leave.
This was extended to all fathers in 2010 to include those adopting and employees within small businesses.
The statutory leave for dads in the UK is up to two weeks paid paternity leave.
You have to take your leave in one go and has to be taken within 56 days of the birth.
The statutory weekly rate of paternity pay is £148.68 or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). The low rate of pay is what’s typically deterred dads from taking more leave or even their basic two week entitlement.
Statutory maternity pay lasts 39 weeks and is 90 per cent average weekly earnings for six weeks followed by £148.68 or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
Most companies offer new mums a better deal than this though, with employers typically offering between two to three months of full pay, to six months of full pay, followed by the lower statutory rate.
COMPANIES BOOSTING PATERNITY AND SHARED PARENTAL LEAVE
Research published by insurer Zurich indicates that dads are being short-changed at the start.
Nearly half (49 per cent) took between 11 to 14 days of the fortnight's statutory paternity leave they are entitled to, but 30 per cent took between four and 10 days while 15 per cent took no time at all.
Of those that took none, 45 per cent said it was because they could not afford the drop in pay and what that would entail.
However, things are starting to change with more companies offering longer weeks of paternity leave on full pay.
This ranges anything from two weeks full pay offered by some companies, such as KPMG, to Zurich's new 16 week policy, Aviva's 26 weeks and others such as software company RotaCloud trusting their employees with no upper limit.
Shared parental leave
Dads can opt to share parental leave (SPL) with their wives or partners.
It allows the couple to share up to 50 weeks of leave and get up to 37 weeks of pay between them - effectively by sharing the longer period of statutory maternity pay.
You have to share the pay and leave within the first year your child is born or adopted.
Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is paid at the rate of £148.68 a week according to Gov.uk or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
It involves an eligible couple ending maternity leave and pay early and they can then take the rest of the 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave as Shared Parental Leave (SPL) - and the rest of the 39 weeks of maternity or adoption pay as Statutory Shared Parental Pay.
Rules apply but as long as they meet them new dads are entitled to take shared parental leave.
Again this leave is not always taken up so readily because of the low pay.
Earlier this year the Trades Union Congress (TUC) pointed out that only 9,200 or 1 per cent of new parents eligible to take SPL are using it and called for increasing paternity leave to help half a million dads spend more time with their new babies.
The TUC's general secretary, Frances O'Grady, says: 'Shared parental leave needs overhauling. It's not an affordable option for most working families.’
Asking for flexible working
All employees have the right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.
There’s nothing in law, however, that forces companies to offer flexible working – it’s all at the employer's discretion.
However, a number of companies are increasingly offering flexibility in the workplace, which can encompass anything from job sharing, to working from home, working part-time, or doing annualised hours, staggered hours, compressed hours, or flexitime - all of which allow parents to try to fit working hours into a pattern that suits them.
Why don’t more dads take leave or work part-time?
Han Son Lee founder of Daddilife, an online platform for fathers, says part of the reason that more fathers don't take leave or work part-time is because dads find it difficult to talk about what they need.
'I think that men in general aren’t great at being open with their emotions at work which means that it can be a challenge for modern day dads to ask for more flexible working.
'Many working dads feel guilty asking for flexible working or for time off for childcare reasons.'
Lee points out that the majority of dads want to do their bit as parents.
'When we spoke to dads aged 24-40 as part of our Millennial Dad at Work research, we found that 59 per cent of working fathers wanted employers to provide more flexible working.'
Besides the poor pay, if companies agree to just pay the minimum, the underlying culture can also be a big problem for dads.
It's also not uncommon for dads to feel uncomfortable asking for time off when their leave coincides with major work projects or workloads.
It doesn’t get easier the higher up the management chain you are. Ben Graham of TritonExec, a global search firm, points out that C-suite executives generally take less leave than other staff members, given the demand on their roles.
But recruitment and retainment experts warn that keeping a strict working policy with no flexibility will prevent companies from retaining staff.
Ana Maria Tuliak, chair of Smart Working Workstream – a diversity project – says: 'It's not just about maternity and paternity leave – it's about how to keep that talent.
'To attract the best we need to afford and enable an individual to stay with an institution.'
A recent study conducted by Owl Labs backs up this theory. The video conferencing company surveyed 1,200 American workers aged between 22 and 65.
It found that employees that regularly work remotely are happier, stay with companies for longer than those that work in the office and are more likely to recommend their employer.
Productivity also increased. According to Owl Labs' findings, remote workers said they work 40 hours per week – 43 per cent more than their on-site worker colleagues.
Graham adds: 'The reality is that companies that empower individuals to have more harmonious work/life balance will keep staff longer and reap the benefits of their productivity.'
Solutions to the stigma of taking leave
Adam Caldwell, of KPMG says the answer to changing company culture is for companies to encourage employees to be ‘loud and proud’ about the leave they’ve taken or hours they’ve shifted to.
This includes basics like employees putting down the real reason for why they’re taking leave in their calendars.
‘I’m very open about why I’m not at work on Wednesday and that it’s the day I spend time with my daughter.
‘I don’t say that I’m in a “private meeting”. This is to make sure that other dads don’t feel bad about asking for something similar.
‘It’s about setting a precedent and being open about the fact that the “real you” is not just an accountant or whatever but that you have lots of commitments outside of work too.'
Graham is convinced that even small businesses can make it work for fathers while benefiting at the same time.
'SME business owners need to be proactive if they’re intent on allowing more generous paternity time.
'They might make an announcement that they plan to extend paternity leave by giving new fathers - in some cases - up to a month off, or, plenty of half days following the initial two-week period that is normally taken.
'The benefits are clear. Allowing this additional flexibility in the SME space – in the most positive spirit of the occasion (the arrival of a new baby) will foster loyalty like few other gestures coming from leadership.
'More than money, this demonstrates a genuine caring toward the employee experiencing paternity – their family and home life are being considered to the highest degree – which equates to an enormous amount of respect.'
Why dad-friendly policies work
The good news is that more companies are increasingly introducing dad-friendly leave policies to create a level playing field among the genders.
Companies such as Zurich, Aviva, American Express and Twitter are already providing new fathers with more extensive paternity leave to try and create greater equality for parents of all genders.
There are many reasons why dad-friendly policies are beneficial to not only the company but the employee too, including loyalty, improved mental health boosting efficiency.
Zurich says it's new paternity and flexible working policy is attracting and retaining talent.
Steve Collinson, Zurich's head of human resources, says: 'We listened to employee feedback and we also wanted to make Zurich the most attractive place to work for the widest range of people.
Others like KPMG and RotaCloud focus on offering parents more flexibility by offering them time off or the option to choose their working hours.
Caldwell says KPMG's ‘intelligent working arrangements’, enables employees to come to various arrangements with their managers based on family needs.
‘From a company point of view it means people coming back more refreshed. People bring their real selves to work - not shutting their personal life off.
‘It makes people happy and motivated. If you feel there is some flexibility and allowance for you to be there, you feel so different about your employers.’
PUBLISHED: 3 December 2019