Three-quarters of men feel stigmatised about taking extended paternity leave, report finds

CIPD calls on employers to build more open cultures around fathers taking parental leave and adopting flexible working

Men want to be treated the same as women when it comes to accessing parental leave, but fear they will be stigmatised for taking an extended time off to look after their child, research from the CIPD has found.

The report, which polled 631 working fathers, found nearly three-quarters of men (73 per cent) felt there was a stigma attached to them taking extended paternity leave, with nearly all respondents (95 per cent) agreeing that workplace culture needed to be transformed to normalise men taking time off.

The report also found that more than half of the men who were on paternity leave at the time (56 per cent) felt anxious about returning to the workplace, and of all the men polled, just a third (35 per cent) were confident they would get the same level of support from their employer as female staff.

This is despite the potential benefits that extended paternity leave could provide to fathers, children and businesses – which include improvements to employee engagement, retention and productivity.

Extended parental leave can also help reduce the gender pay gap by sharing the time taken off work for childcare more equitably, the report said.

Commenting on the findings, Joe Levenson, director of communications and campaigns at the Young Women's Trust, said employers needed to create a more open culture for men around parental leave. “Creating an open culture where men taking extended parental leave is a normal part of working life should be a priority for all employers, alongside ensuring that women don't face a motherhood penalty when they are pregnant or have children,” he said.

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“Employers that support both men and women to take enhanced parental leave and which offer flexible working as the default are not only helping to dismantle inequalities in the workplace, but by doing so can also help ensure they have an engaged, loyal and motivated workforce.”

The CIPD report found there were things employers could do to support fathers in taking paternity leave, including providing proper cover while they are off, holding ‘keep in touch’ days, and allowing phased returns to work. “Employers can do much more to break down these barriers through better communication, training of line managers to challenge negative attitudes when they arise, and through the open support for extended paternity leave by senior leaders,” the report said.

“Building open cultures around taking extended paternity leave and adopting flexible working as a norm will not only better support working parents, but all employees.”

The report found nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of the men polled said they would like to have more information from their employers on employment policies and their rights around parental leave, while nearly two-thirds (59 per cent) said they would like to have scheduled conversations with line managers to talk about the effects parenting would have on their work. More than half (57 per cent) would also like to see the introduction of parents’ networks or forums.

Flexible working also appealed to fathers – the majority (95 per cent) said flexible working had increased the likelihood of them staying with their current employer; 70 per cent said it had increased their motivation at work; and more than four in five (83 per cent) said it had posted productivity.