“They’re just hasn’t been the take-up we thought there would be,” is what I hear most often when I ask clients and HR practitioners about Shared Parental Leave.

What if employers invited expectant fathers to tell them they are expecting a baby? How might this affect the take-up of Shared Parental Leave? “A voluntary ‘DADB1’ form alongside the ‘MATB1’ form women are given by the NHS to pass to their employers?” I quipped in a LinkedIn article If employers REALLY want more men to take SPL, here’s how in March 2017.

18 months later and we’re calling upon the Government to introduce a “DADB1” form alongside the “MATB1” form pregnant women are issued by their midwife to verify their pregnancy. The DADB1 form is for expectant fathers to hand to their employer to kickstart discussions about, and preparation for, Shared Parental Leave. The DADB1 form is a simple, pragmatic step towards growing the number of men taking SPL by kickstarting early conversations between expectant fathers and their employers.

Read and sign the petition – your support counts. We need 10,000 supporters.

Why? Watch this short film.

Researchers have indicated that increasing the numbers of men taking SPL is likely to be a lever in closing the UK’s gender pay gap. Shared Parental Leave was introduced in the UK April 2015. Around 285,000 qualify for SPL every year yet the take-up could be as low as 2% (source: gov.uk). The Government launched a “Share the joy” campaign in February 2018 to promote SPL and increase the uptake. The impact of this is not yet known.

Read and sign the petition.

Thank you to Samuel Hudman and Oliver (his new son), for being our poster boys for this campaign.

Andy Haldane’s Recruitment Challenge

Founder of the 30% Club, ex-CEO of Newton Asset Management and mother of nine, Helena Morrissey is full of sage advice for business leaders and women who want to see gender balance in the workplace in her book “A Good Time to Be a Girl”. One of our favourite extracts is the re-counting of Andy Haldane’s advice on how to increase diversity in teams.

I had the opportunity to share this with the London team of recruitment consultants at Huxley/SThree last month and think it’s an idea we need to spread far and wide.

From the chapter How CEOs can break the diversity barrier:

Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, gave an insightful speech on diversity in 2016, entitled ‘The Sneetches’, after Dr Seuss’ children’s story of the same name, a parody of status and discrimination first published in 1961. In his speech Haldane challenged CEOs to consider whether their recruitment process really did encourage diversity.

The Recruitment Challenge

There are two candidates for a position, A and B. They do a test based on attributes useful for the hiring organisation. These tests might be state of the art, including all the diverse attributes one would wish for in an organisation – cognitive, interpersonal and experientail skills.

In this test out of 10, candidate A scores 8 and candidate B scores 4. Which one should be hired? The answer is easy. The evidence points strongly to A as the candidate best meeting requirements for the job. They have quite literally, ticked the right boxes. But let’s add a twist. What if the answers A gets wrong are the ones B gets right? And what is the questions existing employees get wrong are also the ones B gets right? In other words, what if candidate B brings skills to the organisation which otherwise do not exist?

The right recruitment decision for the organisation is then to choose B rather than A. Candidate B adds more to the collective ability of the organisation, even though they are weaker individually. The question is, how often would existing recruitment practices deliver such an outcome? In practice I think rarely. Individuals are typically judged on the alignment between their skills and those of the existing organisation. It takes quite a leap of faith to choose the candidate whose skills are misaligned with the hiring organisation.

 

If employers REALLY want more men to take Shared Parental Leave here’s how

What if employers invited expectant fathers to tell them they are expecting a baby? How might this affect the take-up of Shared Parental Leave?

“They’re just hasn’t been the take-up we thought there would be,” is what I hear most often when I ask clients and HR practitioners about shared parental leave. This week at a WISE Campaign knowledge share event on flexible working Eleanor Silverio, UK Benefits Policy Lead at Shell, was candid about their low take-up of SPL at Shell. She explained that in their experience fathers are not actively seeking to be primary carers home alone with baby, and those who do take SPL leave are doing so for other reasons. These reasons may include practical necessity such as a mother with an injury or a desire to take a sabbatical. An HR Director I spoke to a couple of years ago took additional paternity leave (APL), as it was then, to address troubles with his ageing parents and APL was a good vehicle for taking time out. It was not out of a desire to care for his son instead of being at work.

The barriers to men taking SPL have been well-documented (the two biggest ones being lack of financial viability, as men are on average the higher earners, and it going against cultural norms). In a piece I wrote three years ago on the business benefits of active fathers I argued that SPL would flop unless parental leave was sliced into three with a proportion dedicated to the father on a use-it-or-lose-it basis that is well paid. This would serve to speed up cultural change.

But who wants cultural change? Do employers? A shift towards co-parenting and it being equally likely a father takes a significant period of leave to care for his baby as a mother is good for women’s careers and children’s development. HOWEVER, it doesn’t make sense for individual employers to expend much energy convincing their daddy employees to take SPL unless:

1.      The mother of their child is an employee at the same organisation and

2.      She occupies a middle to senior role and

3.      The organisation is keen to keep female brains in the business (because they’re aware of the commercial benefits of a gender-balanced senior team).

If employers really do want fathers to take-up SPL they need to start asking these employees to let them know that they are expecting. This is the start of cultural change and can be achieved through some simple internal comms, including stories of high profile men in the organisation or wider industry who have taken time out. This raises awareness of what SPL is, that it’s OK to take it and how it could be of benefit to the individual. Women returning from maternity leave are fresh, motivated and come with  new perspectives and solutions to their organisation’s challenges – and with support they quickly return or exceed their previous peak performance. They’re assets and it’s about time we treated them as such and encouraged fathers to get in on the act too.

The Talent Keeper Specialists are in the business of keeping, engaging and boosting the performance of returning employees be they on maternity, adoption, shared parental, sick leave or sabbatical. We want to do more work with fathers and hope the profile of participants at our Comeback Community workshops changes to include more men over the next five years.

This post was first published on LinkedIn 2/3/17. Today, 18/2/18, the UK Government has announced a ‘Share the Joy’ campaign to encourage more men to take Shared Parental Leave.

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