In April this year, changes came into force enabling greater flexibility for working men and women to take paid time off to care for a new born or adopted child. The introduction of Additional Paternity Leave means that Dad can take paid time off instead of Mum during the first year, if that works for them.
For a recruiter such as Cobalt providing interim solutions to our clients, this is an interesting development. One of the key reasons we hear for having an interim, temporary or contract candidate on board is to provide maternity cover.
Surely it is only a matter of time before we receive requests for an interim to cover paternity leave?
Well, 5 months on, we're still waiting to be instructed on a role, which has come about because of paternity leave! As we work in the specialist sectors of real estate and construction, maybe it’s just too small sample section of the economy to provide a true picture of just how widely this is being taken up.
Conducting vigorous research on the broader job market (i.e. running a search through Google) produces some interesting results. Ask it for "Maternity cover positions” and you'll see several top job boards vying to be top of the rankings; ask it for "paternity cover positions" and it will ask back – "did you mean maternity cover positions"? So it seems that Google is not recognising this as a phenomenon in its own right yet.
It could well be that these roles exist, yet are not being advertised as such. But if that is the case then recruiters are potentially missing out. The phrase "maternity cover" position is music to any good interim's ears – the phrase itself implies a little more certainty in an interim's world – that it will be a given length of contract, that it’s a "proper" job in filling someone else's boots, and that there is the possibility of permanent role at the end of it. No doubt this is why it's such a valuable phrase for job boards to rank highly on google for; they know that’s what good freelancers use to conduct searches. "Paternity cover" should have the same reaction.
Maybe recruiters are not distinguishing whether it is maternity or paternity leave which they are recruiting for, but rather using the generic "parental leave" as a catch all. Well, in this instance further research shows diverts to maternity cover positons or sites with advice on how to manage a request for parental leave. A quick conversation with a few HR contacts suggests that whilst there have been enquiries, there hasn’t yet been any takers.
So is paternity leave taking off?
It’s probably too soon to tell. A lot has been written about the socio-economic impact of introducing this flexibility and how attitudes towards men and by men as primary carers needs to change. Employers need to encourage shared parental leave in practice as well as in policies so it will take time, perhaps many years, before it becomes the norm.
But that is looking to the long term. The more immediate reason could be purely down to Mother Nature. Babies born to eligible parents will only just be five months old now, so whilst it is presumptive that Dad would take the second half of the year's leave rather than the first, it could be we are on the cusp of a paternity leave revolution. Whenever it arrives, we'll be there, ready to provide the temporary cover.
Article written by Sara Burton, Director at Cobalt Recruitment
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