Strategies for Encouraging Men to Take Parental Leave

Strategies for Encouraging Men to Take Parental Leave

According to a new survey by recruitment company Hays, 54 per cent of Australian men believe that new fathers don’t take the full parental leave they are entitled to because of an adverse impact on their finances, while 34 per cent fear they will be viewed as less committed to their job.

Another 12 per cent say parental leave is viewed as the right and responsibility of the mother. More than 840 Australians completed the survey, 62 per cent were women and 48 per cent were men.

Just 19 per cent of respondents said their organisation offers parental leave for male employees on equal terms to female employees and the majority said men in their organisation rarely take (28 per cent) or only take some (44 per cent) of the parental leave they’re entitled to.

Yet 80 per cent said they thought shared parental leave and child rearing responsibility would help break down unconscious bias and improve gender diversity.

“We need to start offering and accepting the decision of men to work flexibly and take an equal amount of paternity leave without making assumptions about their career motivations or applying unconscious or otherwise career consequences,” said Managing Director of Hays Nick Deligiannis.

“If more employers do this, it will reduce the stigma around men taking on equal caring responsibilities and could help improve female gender equality in the workplace.”

Mr Deligiannis said Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, made sure the company’s parental leave policy covered both women and men and took two months of parental leave himself after his daughter was born.

“It would be great to see more men leading by example like this so that other men – and women – feel they can do the same without it impacting their career.”

So how can we encourage more companies to offer paternity leave and more men to take their leave when they become a father? The answer is in changing existing attitudes and prejudices around parental leave policies.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency there are a range of benefits for companies who provide paid parental leave including:

  • An increase in the number of employees who return to work after taking leave
  • A reduction in recruitment and training costs
  • Improvements in staff morale and productivity
  • Cost effective means of retaining skilled staff
  • Improved organisational efficiency through the benefits of retaining long service employees.

So how can employers encourage more men to take parental leave?

Provide flexibility: In many partnerships the primary carer often takes the maximum amount of parental leave offered in one go, which means that if there are time stipulations around when the secondary carer (or father) must take their leave they could miss out. Ensuring your parental leave policy is flexible enough to enable a father to take time off when he wants or needs it will increase the likelihood of him using it.

Make it financially viable: Ensuring the parental leave payment is equal to the father’s salary and that there will be no financial loss to the family for the father to be on leave will significantly improve uptake rates. Offering fathers a choice in how they receive their pay will also help, this may mean periods at half pay or lump sum payments.

Education and promotion: Taking an organisational approach to raising awareness about parental leave, the provisions on offer and how they can be accessed will ensure men understand what they are entitled to. These education campaigns need to be paired with messaging around the acceptability and expectation that men will access leave provisions in equal numbers as female employees.

Role modelling: Fathers in senior positions within the company should act as role models to other men, and should be encouraged to access parental leave provisions and flexible work options. When employees at all levels of organisations witness senior managers taking parental leave they are more likely to be comfortable requesting the leave themselves.