Breathe easy SME, Dad’s staying put?!?!

In my junk mail today I received this message from employment lawyers who shall remain nameless (not Nameless) entitled “Breathe easy SME, Dad’s staying put”:

Employers running smaller businesses (less than 250 employees) will be pleased to hear that new Dads are less likely to take advantage of the new shared parental leave allowance.

Recent research* suggests:
• One in three fear they will be judged by colleagues
• 16% said they would feel uncomfortable taking so much time off
• And 25% said they would feel unsupported by their managers if they took extended leave
These results are in contrast to male employees of larger firms (250 – 999 employees) who feel more comfortable taking the new extended leave option.

Reading this made me feel somewhat upset. As an employer (and yes, a woman) I’ve always encouraged my team to take full advantage of parental leave. Me being a mother hit my business hard when I took my own leave, and in reality I ended up working alot from home during that time (between feeds, during naps..) to enable other women in my team (with coinciding maternity leaves) to not feel pressured into coming back too soon.  You see, My husband and I run Nameless together equally. Nameless was our first (corporate) baby. Since then we’ve had two (human) kids and I *know* without doubt that dads have a huge and equal part in the raising of their kids into balanced young adults. Seeing both parents take an equal role is an important example to set where emotionally and financially possible, whatever the marital or relationship status of the parents. So in our company, like many others, family comes first.  I would be horrified if any of my company felt they had to spend less time with their child because of any pressure we’d put on them.

Yes, small companies do get hit the hardest, and the new legislation will need us to prepare much more for absences of key team members. But as small and micro-business employers we should be making sure that the incoming government are committed to even out the playing field so that we’re not financially disadvantaged by doing the right thing, and not hoping that new dads will take the hit out of guilt or loyalty. Most of us will be doing the right thing regardless, but that’s no reason to take advantage.