23% think shared parental leave will help gender discrimination


Less than a quarter (23%) of UK employees believe that new shared parental leave reforms will result in women being viewed more favourably by employers, according to a study conducted by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

The research, drawn from a survey 2,012 employees and 100 recruitment decision makers in November 2014, also revealed that a third believe the reforms will negatively impact men.

Nevertheless, 65% of respondents plan to take advantage of government reforms on parental leave with their next child.

The survey also found:

  • 58% of recruiters admitted that women of childbearing age are still discriminated against because they might decide to start a family.
  • 60% of employees feel planning to have children would affect how women’s career ambitions were perceived by senior management compared with just 15% for men.
  • 71% of UK employees who were planning to have children had never asked about parental leave policies during job interviews.
  • Only 22% said they would be likely discuss their plans for having children in a job interview.
  • Over a quarter (26%) had lied about their plans to have children in order to increase their appeal to a prospective employer.
  • 67% have or would look specifically at a prospective employer’s maternity and paternity policies. 

Leigh Lafever-Ayer, Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s UK head of HR, said: “Many UK employees feel pessimistic about the new parental leave reforms, and there is clear evidence from our research that discrimination against young women persists.

“It is especially disheartening to hear so many men think the reforms could now have a negative impact on their career. It proves that this is not a gender issue: it is a family issue.

“Changes in legislation are not enough: these reforms can only have a positive effect on the workplace if employers and employees embrace and act on them. The reality is that either men or women will need at some point to take some kind of a career break to care for children, and it’s time to have sensible conversations about this.”

Kathryn Nawrockyi, opportunity now director at Business in the Community, said: “If we are to remove the stigma currently surrounding shared parental leave and other forms of career breaks, it’s vital that changes are driven from the top, with support and commitment from senior leaders and managers.

“However, we also need line managers to help deliver that change by recognising and supporting their team members’ diverse needs and aspirations.

“By having open, honest and constructive conversations about shared parental leave with all their staff without fear of damaging their career prospects, organisations will be able to get the best out of all their people and increase their engagement, productivity and loyalty.”

The shared parental leave regulations came into force on 1 December 2014. The options to use the new rights will apply for parents who meet the eligibility criteria, where a baby is due to be born on or after 5 April 2015, or for children who are placed for adoption on or after that date.