Since the right for parents to take shared parental leave was introduced in the UK in 2015 the government estimates that the uptake has been a dismal 2%. However, at the UK's largest insurance company, Aviva UK, the story is very different.
A year ago Aviva implemented its new shared parental leave policy which allows all parents employed at the firm to take up to 12 months leave on the birth or adoption of their child, with 26 weeks being paid at their full basic rate of pay. This policy applies regardless of the person's gender.
A year on, Aviva have reported that 67% of eligible fathers have taken 6 months leave and on average, new fathers have taken 21 weeks shared parental leave. While 95% took more than the 2 weeks' paternity leave that they would have been entitled to before the shared parental leave rules took effect.
This goes to show that the myth that men generally prefer to take a back seat in caring for their child is not true and many new fathers wish to take an active and equal role. Often the decision as to which partner will take time off from work is a financial one and Aviva's policy ensures that whether its employees are male or female, they will be offered the same assistance during the difficult first year of bringing up their child.
Although Aviva's policy, to offer 6 months fully paid leave is very generous and may be out of reach to most smaller employers, it is hoped that employers will take note and consider providing parents taking shared parental leave the same enhancement as they offer to mums taking maternity leave.
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If we are going a create diverse, inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive, we must avoid viewing people as just one thing – a woman, a carer, an older worker – and instead see the value they can add.