Survey reveals level of support for shared parental leave among working mothers as 17% of women now claim to be the breadwinner in their family
It’s hard to dispute that the introduction of shared parental leave in the UK – a measure set to come into force next April – is a step in the right direction. It would appear that the government is finally moving with the times and recognising that fathers are keen to play a more active role in the early development of their children. Moreover, it’s hoped that the legislation could propel things forward on the wage equality front. Of course, the implications of shared parental leave for small businesses are fairly self-evident – especially where a mother and father work for the same company. But what do the subjects of this change think?
The latest annual survey from workingmums.co.uk, sponsored by McDonald’s, reveals that almost half (44%) of working mothers would consider sharing their parental leave with their partner. This figure is up 3% from last year’s survey with workingmums.co.uk suggesting this could in part be down to the fact that more women are now the main breadwinners in their families. Over 17% of women who were living with a partner say they are the main breadwinner and only in a small number of cases is this because their partner has been made redundant or had to reduce their hours.
However, the survey goes on to show that, despite this encouraging rise in female breadwinners, the number of women who claim to split childcare and housework equally with their partners is just 21%, down from 27% last year. Some 17% say their partners work flexibly with 4% of partners working part time. And in terms of the length of time taken for maternity leave, it’s safe to say the recession has had a telling impact: 46% of women surveyed said they’d had to return to work early as a result of the downturn or cost of living. Of these, 10% only took between one and three months of leave. That being said, the majority still took between seven and 12 months.
“Our annual survey always throws up a wealth of information on the way women are working or would like to work and what the hurdles many face when attempting to reach their potential,” said Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk.
“It is interesting to note the appetite for shared parenting in the light of expectations that initial take-up will not be significant. This perhaps reflects a growing awareness among couples of the link between equality in the workplace and at home. It is vital that policy supports parents in having greater choice over how they balance work and family life.”
It remains to be seen whether words will be met with actions when it comes to shared parental leave. Given that businesses paying above the statutory minimum for maternity leave won’t be obliged to for shared leave, there may not be as big a shift from the status quo as many are expecting. However, we’re happy to be proved wrong.