The gender pay gap could be responsible for the low levels of shared parental leave, according to a new survey.
Introduced in 2015, this scheme allows parents to divide a year’s worth of maternity leave between them. Lawmakers hoped it would encourage fathers to be more involved in their children’s early lives. However, take-up has been notoriously slow. Last year, official figures revealed that only 3,000 couples in the first three months opted for shared parental leave out of the 285,000 who were eligible to do so, or just four per cent.
In a survey of 1,000 working people, 44 per cent claimed that they, their partner or someone else they knew had experienced difficulties when returning to work after a pregnancy. Each participant was also asked what they believe was the main reason for the low numbers of couples choosing shared parental leave. Almost half – 47 per cent – said the difference in wages between partners was probably to blame.
As men are typically the highest-earning member of a family and work longer hours, they are less likely to take time off at a reduced rate of pay once they become fathers.
This attitude appears to support previous research. Last year, the Institute for Fiscal Studies claimed that the pay gap between men and women widens once children become a factor. Women who become mothers see their average hourly wage fall behind the pay received by their male peers for around 12 years after their return to work. At that point, the difference between the two salaries can be as much as 33 per cent.
The survey was conducted by business search engine Office Genie. Their Head of People Development, Sarah Sutton, said the pay disparity “can be a major issue”. The highest earners in the family are “far less likely to take a significant amount of time off work at statutory shared parental pay rates” she explained.
Workplaces “have a duty to support their maternity and paternity leavers during and after their leave” she continued, adding that it was “of vital importance to include leavers in regular work communications (including promotion opportunities) … and offer flexible working options on their return”.
Back in January, research organisation Childwise suggested that the gender pay gap begins in childhood, as boys reportedly receive more pocket money from their parents than girls do.
Photo by Mathias Garcia via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.