Dr Jana Javornik comments on the British Shared Parental Leave initiative

Dr Jana Javornik has written an opinion piece for "My Family Care" on the issue of shared parental leave.

Written as part of the company's Big Questions issue, Dr. Javornik believes "it's high time UK parents were given the opportunity to divide parental leave in order to share precious time with their young children".

My Family Care asked Jana: With the introduction of Shared Parental Leave, there is much debate about whether men will in fact take up the offering or whether it will make a difference to women in the workplace. What effect do you think the change will have? In an ideal world, what needs to happen to change the face of parental leave?

Dr Javornik's response is broken down into the following points:

  • Shared Parental Leave from a gender equality perspective

  • Childcare should be a shared responsibility

  • Cultural changes are slow to achieve

Covering the issue of gender equity, she identifies the follows policy aspects as particularly challenging:

1. Financial arrangement will continue to disadvantage women- "Men are highly sensitive to income support payments: the higher the payment, the higher the chances a father will take it".

2. Women choose whether they share leave with partner- "Organising parental leave as a joint right diminishes the chances of dividing it; it is likely that many will see it as a mother's loss, of which the Slovenian experience is informative".

3. Flexibile working in use is another critical element- "When available in a form of reduced working hours, weekly or daily part-time, the leave will positively affect both mothers' employment and fathers' take-up: mothers with lower income will not have to stop working (as they do when childcare costs are high), and mothers in higher occupations as well as fathers in general will be able to better manage their employment and childcare responsibilities".

To conclude, Dr Javornik discusses the future of shared parental leave. She says "in the long run, available policy and the public debate will affect parents' expectations and their sense of entitlement to legal rights, and we already see it shaping the public opinion. Shared Parental Leave delivered as a statutory entitlement will create new opportunities for both women and men to make claims at the workplace level; it will encourage employers to understand that women can work and have careers even with children, and that men are fathers, too. This might change the hiring practices, and women might stop being treated as secondary workers."

Lastly she argues that for policy to be successful "the government should ensure and monitor that leave does not come with penalties for parents, including job loss or discriminatory treatment in pay and promotion."

Read the full article.