Workplace culture stops dads from taking paternity leave, research shows

Cultural barriers in the workplace are having a direct impact on the uptake of paternity leave, according to a report from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).

The research shows that more than half of managers surveyed – 58 per cent – believe parental leave is disruptive for their organisations and 72 per cent of managers feel that parental leave affects the efficiency and productivity of their teams.

This perception means that only 10 per cent of new dads currently take more than two weeks of paternity leave, and 2 per cent of managers return to work after a fortnight.

ILM suggests that “ingrained expectations” remain around a mother’s role as primary care giver in the first year of a child’s life, which deters new fathers from taking advantage of government schemes.

Changes to legislation, such as additional paternity leave, allow new fathers to take up to 26 weeks’ off, while the option to share parental leave more equally between the mother and father will come into force in 2015. But the research showed that employers are still more in favour of mothers taking time off.

Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of employers surveyed for the report were supportive of women taking up to a year’s maternity leave, compared to 58 per cent of employers supporting fathers taking just two weeks paternity leave.

The ILM is now calling on employers to tackle workplace attitudes, to encourage the uptake of paternity leave and drive gender diversity in the workplace.

"The introduction of shared parental leave is a crucial step towards enabling more women to progress into senior roles," said Charles Elvin, ILM chief executive.

Elvin believes there is still work to do in breaking down the cultural barriers, before the introduction of shared parental leave next year, as current beliefs in the workplace are “impeding the uptake of both two weeks statutory paternity leave and additional paternity leave," he said.

From 2015, eligible mothers and their partners will be able to take up to 52 weeks of shared leave between them, either in alternating blocks or taken together.

The government is hoping new legislation will help working dads play a greater role in their child's early months, and help keep talented women in the workforce.

Figures from Department for Work and Pensions quoted in the research suggest that financial barriers were also preventing new fathers from taking paternity leave, especially in the case of managers, as they were likely to be earning more than their non-managerial counterparts.

While 70 per cent of new mothers receive full pay between one and 38 weeks of maternity leave, just 9 per cent of new fathers receive full pay for longer than two weeks when on paternity leave.

“Many dads simply can't afford to take time off, particularly as employers rarely top up their statutory pay,” said Frances O’Grady, secretary general of the TUC.