Balancing a career with parental responsibilities is a difficult juggling act that many people struggle with. Campaigns such as Pregnant then Screwed and Flex Appeal are leading the way in calling for better rights and more flexible working opportunities for working parents and those with caring responsibilities, but there is a long way to go.
Recently though, there has been evidence of a change in the air. Whilst previous campaigns have been more focused on maternity rights, millennial men are becoming increasingly vocal in demanding their rights. Parents of all genders are now keen to play a key role in raising children, especially in the early years. Shared parental leave has been available to both parents in the UK since 2015, yet very few parents exercise their right. In fact research by the University of Birmingham suggests that just 1% of those entitled to it, took shared parental leave in 2017-18, although this did increase slightly the following financial year.
One barrier to both parents taking shared parental leave has been the drop in earnings where companies do not offer an enhanced package, just the statutory minimum. To counteract this, many high profile businesses have started to increase their offerings, giving parents a genuine choice and the flexibility to explore their options fully when starting a family.
Breaking the stigma, particularly in male dominated industries, and encouraging fathers to take longer parental leave, is becoming more normal in certain instances as several high profile companies have begun to offer enhanced packages to their employees in response to increased demand for better parental leave.
Goldman Sachs has recently changed their policy to allow all parents in the UK to take 26 weeks fully paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Other FTSE 100 companies, such as Standard Life and Vodafone have also have also recently announced that they are taking steps to make the experience of both parents more equal. They join the likes of Diageo, who already offer a generous parental leave package, with all of their employees entitled to 52 weeks leave, half of that being fully paid.
By reacting to the wishes of Millennial parents in their demand for a better work life balance and greater parental leave, these firms should be able to attract and retain the best employees in an increasingly competitive labour market.
It is hoped that by equalising the experience of both genders when they become parents, and allowing men to take time out from work, it should in theory lead to more equality in terms of pay and opportunity.
Becoming a parent not only signifies a major lifestyle change, but also has far reaching implications on a professional level. If you find yourself at a crossroads in your career, it’s a good time to reach out and start a conversation about your career plans.
Does your employer offer genuine flexibility to parents? How do you juggle your career with your caring responsibilities?