Parental Leave and Flexible Working

So, what's the big deal? Dad get two weeks of leave when he has a new baby. That supports mum through her recovery and gives him a chance to bond with baby, right? Not really. We believe that dads, children, mums and families require so much more. That's why we're so passionate about more accessible parental leave and flexible working for fathers.

Employed UK fathers have almost the same statutory entitlements to post-birth leave as mothers. Parents are entitled to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them and can choose to be off work together or to stagger the leave and pay. But dads in Scotland are making limited use of their workplace entitlements, often because they feel too worried or embarrassed to use their paternity rights fully. Workplace culture, line manager relationships, the ‘modelling’ behaviour of peers and gendered leave practices all impact on how fathers feel about using work-family balance policies, and whether they are likely to use them. 

Challenging the presumption that women are primarily responsible for raising children is key to tackling wider societal inequality, including the gender pay gap. If all mums and dads were all given parental leave - not shared, but the same entitlement for both men and women - then ingrained cultural values about gender and parenthood in the workplace would be challenged and overcome. In the UK, Aviva offers up to one year of leave, of which 26 weeks’ is at full basic pay for every parent employed by the company within the first 12 months of a child’s arrival. We're looking forward to hearing the evaluation by Aviva of this initiative during our International Women's Day event, during which we'll examine the current evidence and thinking around parental leave and how it can lead to greater gender equality at home and at work.

We're particularly interested to find out about the link between increased paternity leave and parental wellbeing. We're in the middle of our How Are You Dad pilot, through which we're meeting midwives and health visitors and encouraging them to ask dads about their mental health. Dad Tim Porteus says, "I remember feeling this huge overwhelming sense of guilt leaving my wife in this exhausted state, and then I had to go to work and try to function at work, and then come back to an exhausted wife and try and take over." This situation led to his own experiences of postnatal depression. Those first two weeks of a child's life go by in a blur; the opportunity for a dad to settle into fatherhood without rushing back into the workplace could make the world of difference.

This issue of shared parenting isn't just a consideration in the first year of a child's life. We were really heartened to see that there were a number of dads listed in the Timewise Power 50 awards, which celebrates the achievements of senior business leaders who work part-time. Flexible and part-time working by men encourages better gender equality in the workplace and better enables both mums and dads to embrace both parenthood and a career.

Remote or nomadic working is definitely becoming more common. Have you heard about the opportunity presented by KinCoWorking in Edinburgh? They're soon launching a co-working space with childcare for parents and carers in Edinburgh. They're holding an information event on 10th March for anyone who is interested in the concept. This might well appeal to self-employed parents too. There is of course no statutory parental leave available for self-employed dads, which puts enormous pressure on families. That will make a whole new blog post and we have some interesting research to reveal... To be continued!