Companies are rolling out more parental leave benefits, but dads may be reluctant on the uptake

Big corporates are upping their parental benefits amid a shift towards balancing family responsibilities.

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

WHILE MULTINATIONALS ARE rolling out flexible working benefits and longer parental leave packages to entice workers and keep them happy, Ireland’s dads could be a little slow on the uptake when it comes to paternity leave.  

A survey from Matrix recruitment, published earlier this week, pointed to a reluctance for a lot of men in using paternity leave. 

This week both Vodafone and Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced they are significantly expanding their paternity leave programmes. They followed on from a similar move by Diageo earlier this year, amid a broader push to support parents. 

However in a ‘workplace equality’ survey of 2,070 people, Matrix found that 69% of respondents said men are reluctant to take their allotted paternity leave. 

A majority of 62% said that that taking paternity leave could “reflect on their commitment to their employer or their work”.

“These findings point to the belief that the mother’s role is still that of primary carer and we could still be a generation away from men feeling comfortable and secure enough to take their full parental leave entitlement,” Joanne Foley, the regional recruitment manager at Matrix, said. 

“There are obviously financial implications too, but I do think that we are seeing a cultural change, albeit a slow one, with a number of employers actively taking steps to promote and support leave entitlements,” she added. 

Maeve McElwee, the director of employer relations at Ibec, said that there are “changing norms” in the workplace.

“For very many years, it was always the preserve of women in the workplace to look for reduced working hours, flexible working hours, and who predominantly have a lot of protective leaves like maternity and parental leave,” she said. 

“What we are seeing is, there’s a shift…. Certainly the introduction of paternity leave has been a trigger for more men who might not necessarily have considered taking a huge amount of leave or who would have taken annual leave,” she added. 

It is still predominantly women who are taking the leave, she said, but an emerging trend among millennial candidates is that they’re asking about employer policies on flexible and remote working.

Ibec and employers are expecting an upward trend in uptake of paternity leave – though “it may take a little bit of time,” she added. 

“I think what lots of employers are doing to try and encourage more men to consider taking leave and to share and balance those family responsibilities is to lead from the top. Essentially, normalising the fact that … senior male executives do take parental leave, parent’s leave and any paternity leave that’s owing to them,” she said.    

‘The importance of equal parenting’

While some men might be reluctant, companies are coming around to supporting the balancing act. 

Yesterday Vodafone announced that all employees will be offered 16 weeks paid parental leave any time during the first 18 months of a new child joining their family – starting in April 2020. 

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in Ireland also announced this week that it will be offering 26 weeks of fully paid paternity leave as well as support in the transition period back to work. 

According to a statement from HPE, the move is in recognition “of the importance of equal parenting and the role that workplace culture can play in supporting it”. 

The new scheme is available for employees who have worked with the company for at least a year and within the first 12 months of a new addition to the family.

Since new legislation for parent’s leave came in on November 1, working parents are entitled to two weeks paid statutory leave for a child born or adopted from this month on. 

Parent’s leave is different to parental leave. With the new parent’s leave, working parents get two weeks paid leave. With parental leave, working parents get 22 weeks of unpaid leave – from September next year this will increase to 26 weeks. 

Maternity leave entitles mothers to 26 weeks paid leave and up to 16 weeks unpaid. Paternity leave entitles fathers to two weeks paid leave. 

Announcements on benefits for new parents – like those from Vodafone and HPE – come at a time when companies are facing issues around skills shortages, recruitment and retention of existing employees. 

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