Research carried out by UM has highlighted the Shared Parental Leave (SPL) initiative is yet to gain significant traction with new dads: one in five (20%) still aren’t aware of what they can or cannot take, whilst nearly half (45%) know about it but haven’t taken any. In fact, 6% of dads haven’t taken any paternal leave at all.
Among those new dads who haven’t taken advantage of SPL, more than a quarter (27%) say their line manager wasn’t supportive, a third (35%) were apprehensive about the impact on their career progression and 30% were worried what people would think of them for taking time off.
In each case, these factors affected dads more than mums: 24% of new mums who didn’t take SPL faced unsupportive line managers, 19% were worried about the effect on their careers and only 18% were concerned what other people thought.
The survey also showed the vital role of media and marketing in getting the message out to fathers about Shared Parental Leave – and about parenting in general. Around two-thirds (65%) of new dads say they’d like to receive clear, informative communications telling them about the facts of SPL. And overall, only a quarter (23%) feel satisfied with the information and guidance that is generally available to them about becoming a new parent.
They’re less likely than mums to seek advice from family members, but more likely to look for guidance from friends and books.
The survey of new and expectant parents in the UK found most new dads waited until just after the first pregnancy scan (usually at 12 weeks) to talk about parental leave with their employers, and only 18% are aware that SPL requires only eight weeks’ written notice in advance.
The low take-up of SPL may be due to the monetary impact on families: according to Kantar Media TGI research, only 4,000 parents every year will not be financially impacted if they take Shared Parental Leave over standard maternity leave. That’s just five percent of all UK families with newborns.
Sophia Durrani, managing partner, strategy at UM, comments: “Government figures have shown how little take-up there’s been of Shared Parental Leave since it was introduced in 2015. This research shows that new fathers are still very concerned about what taking additional leave will mean for them at work and are very unclear on what exactly they’re eligible for.”
Online is first port of call for new dads seeking parenting advice
Meanwhile, separate research also carried out by UM among 2,500 UK adults has shown that two-thirds (67%) of dads with children under five – and 44% of mums – suggested they might be more prepared for parenthood thanks to online parenting networks. The stereotype that men are unwilling to ask for directions or read the manual seems to fall away when the potential for crying babies and soiled nappies is involved.
Overall, a whopping 60% of mums with children under five – and a quarter (26%) of dads with young kids – now use specialist networks such as Mumsnet and Emma’s Diary. A third of mothers (32%) use them as their first port of call when seeking parenting advice.
The study found that more than three-quarters (78%) of mums say parenting networks provide a brilliant support system. Meanwhile, more than half of mothers (51%) use them to share hints and tips with other new parents – and this rises to 63% among dads.
George McMahon, insight executive at UM, adds: “Given how daunting parenthood can be, it’s no surprise that specialist parenting networks are an increasingly popular form of social media. They give new mums and dads the chance to connect and share tips with other people going through similar experiences. They also give brands a great place to reach parents and become part of their support system.
“Your childless friends on Facebook might ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over pictures of your baby, but they’ll be a lot less able to offer solid, first-hand advice on how to deal with colic. Whereas with dedicated websites, online forums and mobile apps, parenting networks are available 24/7 and you know everyone there has faced the same challenges.”
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