Why aren’t more men taking Shared Parental Leave?

New research reveals over half of men questioned think their child would be better off being looked after by their partner

Arts organisation Southbank Centre commissioned a survey about Shared Parental Leave (SPL) ahead of the return of its Being a Man (BAM) festival, revealing that over half of men who have taken SPL don’t believe it’s best for their child, and risk being viewed as ‘less of a man’ for taking it.

Only 36% of those eligible for SPL have taken it, with 81% of those opting to take 15 weeks or less, despite both parents being entitled to 50 between them. SPL is available to all employees, but mothers must first choose to give up their entitlement to share it with their partner. Financial implications are being cited as the main reason for the majority of new fathers not taking time off; many believed their employer would be unlikely to support their request. Additionally, 33% of men questioned who opted not to take leave said they made the decision as they believed their partner would be the best person to look after their children.

Ted Hodgkinson, Southbank Centre’s lead programmer for the BAM festival, said; “These statistics give us a detailed insight into the unspoken fears that shape many men’s lives, and show their power to prevent new fathers from spending crucial time with their children. They evidence the need for spaces in which concerns can be shared, in which we can challenge the weight of those traditional expectations. Because by not spending time with their children, it’s not just parent and child who lose out, but society as a whole.”

The festival runs from the 25th to 27th November, bringing men from across the UK together to explore and challenge the pressures and perceptions of masculine identity in the 21st Century. Guest speakers include Sir Roger Moore, Grayson Perry, and Christopher Eccleston, featuring panels and workshops covering topics from pornography to depression. For more information, visit Southbank Centre’s website.