Encouraging take-up of shared parental leave

Encouraging take-up of shared parental leave

Cityparents' research and perspectives have been cited in this article on take-up of shared parental leave by fathers in asset management published by Ignites Europe on 12 December 2017.

"Male fund professionals will increasingly struggle to justify not taking time out from their careers when they have children as investment companies roll out generous shared parental leave packages, according to an Ignites Europe poll.

Last month UK insurer and asset manager Aviva announced plans to offer both male and female employees six months of fully paid parental leave.

Legg Mason also intends to introduce a three-month shared parental leave scheme for its US employees, while Columbia Threadneedle Investments this year began offering male and female staff the chance to take 20 weeks of time off when they become parents.

Changes in legislation across Europe have facilitated these developments. In 2015 the UK introduced shared parental leave, which allows both parents to divide up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay after the birth of their child.

In a recent Ignites Europe poll, 67 per cent of respondents agreed that with more incentives in place to encourage the take-up of paternity leave, there is no longer any excuse for male professionals working in asset management to forgo this opportunity.

Luxembourg-based fund employee Philippe Paul, who is currently taking part-time parent leave, says: “There is no reason not to go for it.

“If we have the option of taking parental leave, we should simply do it.”

Mr Paul, lead project manager in the project group at fund services group Alter Domus, says new legislation in the Grand Duchy enabled him to take extended paternity leave, which consists of two afternoons a week spread over a period of 20 months.

The Luxembourgish law allows male and female employees to either take four to six months’ full-time leave or, by agreement of their employer, eight to 12 months’ part-time parental leave, for which they are paid a portion of their total salary.

Mr Paul says that taking a salary cut has been worth it to spend more time with his family, while allowing his wife to transition back into work.

Lieben Botha, regulatory reporting manager at Columbia Threadneedle, says that before deciding to make use of shared parental leave he questioned whether the timing was right.

Despite concerns about the workload facing him and his team, Mr Botha says he came to the conclusion that “if this isn’t a good time, when is?”

He adds: “At the end of the day you can’t time kids […] I’m never going to get this time back again.”

Wendy Svirakova, director of corporate communications at Columbia Threadneedle, says her experience of splitting parental leave with her partner enabled her “to navigate my way into corporate with less hiccups and feelings of guilt”.

Ms Svirakova says: “I hope that more men will take the opportunity to spend time with their babies, not only for their and their family’s benefit but also for the benefit of society as a whole.

“Balanced partnerships at home will help women thrive upon their return to work and increase the number of senior women we are so desperately lacking in almost every industry.”

Despite this figures suggest that these examples represent a minority of cases.

Columbia Threadneedle says three male employees have made use of shared parental leave since it was introduced at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile 12 female employees have taken maternity leave during this time, including two who are splitting parental leave.

A recent survey of UK-based finance professionals carried out by Cityparents found that 77 per cent of people who had become parents recently and who had been eligible to share parental leave had chosen not to do it.

Helen Beedham, head of corporate affairs at Cityparents, says employee concern about a lack of employer support is the predominant reason for the low take-up, outweighing any concerns about pay.

According to Ms Beedham, beyond introducing policies of paid leave, firms need to ensure they have procedures in place to help new fathers prepare for paternity leave and readjust to work after coming back.

“Maternity transition support is quite well established in many City firms [but] often there are not many provisions for dads going on leave,” she says.

Bev Shah, founder of CityHive, a network for women working in asset management, says there is currently “no forum” for new fathers working in asset management to discuss how to balance work and fatherhood.

She attributes this to the “alpha-male, macho” atmosphere in the fund industry.

According to Ms Shah, many male employees fear that taking a period of extended paternity leave would be “frowned upon” by colleagues.

She notes that to change the culture of new fathers “still looking at their BlackBerry during childbirth”, both senior and middle management need to start a conversation about the responsibilities of fatherhood.

This could include giving counselling to new fathers about embracing the “realignment” in their life and encouraging them to allocate time to their new responsibilities rather than going “above and beyond at work”.

Peter Branner, CEO of SEB Investments, says “all male staff” at the Swedish fund firm tend to take parental leave.

Although Swedish legislation incentivises male employees to do this, SEB’s senior management also plays its part by making it clear to male employees “that it’s totally okay” to take time out to look after children.

However, Mr Branner acknowledges this will be a slow process, especially given that legislation is less advanced in certain European countries.

Ms Beedham notes that having more role models taking paternity leave will help to boost take-up.

Ms Shah agrees that this can only be a positive since the main examples currently available to men are women who have taken maternity leave, many of whom have faced barriers to their career progression when returning."

By Siobhan Riding.  Link to article online

Category: Cityworks News

Released On 12th Dec 2017

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