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More than half of the UK believes that childcare should be shared equally between parents, a survey by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has found.

The findings show a marked move away from the old attitude that the bulk of childcare responsibilities should be borne by the mother. Some 53% of those questioned said that childcare should be the equal responsibility of both parents while a further 22% believe that a couple should have the right to choose how they divide caring responsibilities, depending on their circumstances.

Just under a quarter of those surveyed believe that childcare should be the mother’s main responsibility, with more than half of men thinking that childcare should be shared equally, compared to 50% of women.

The research was carried out ahead of the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), which will apply to parents of babies born or adopted from 5 April 2015. The new rules mean that parents can split 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay between them in the baby’s first year. SPL also lets parents suggest a flexible pattern of leave to their employer and allows for up to 3 separate blocks of leave, but employers can agree to more.

When parents were questioned, two-thirds said that they would have considered sharing parental leave if it had been available at the time. This was higher amongst fathers, of whom three-quarters said they would have considered it compared with 63% of women.

For those considering having children in the future, 4 in 5 said they would consider taking Shared Parental Leave when they became parents.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

This Edwardian notion that women should stay at home while men go out and support the family has simply no place in this day and age. We need a modern Britain and a fair society that works for families, not against them.

We know that mums and dads want more flexibility and choice when it comes to juggling their home and work lives and we’re listening and taking action.

That’s why we’ve introduced Shared Parental Leave so that parents can make their own decisions about how to raise their family, whether it’s giving women the choice to go back to work earlier or men the opportunity to spend more time with their children.

Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said:

Becoming a parent is an amazing, life-changing event. Helping new parents negotiate the balance between their work and family responsibilities will benefit employers through greater staff retention and loyalty.

This survey shows people are rejecting dated stereotypes about the roles of men and women. Parenting is a shared endeavour and couples want more flexibility when they are adapting to the demands of a new baby. Shared Parental Leave will let couples choose how to share their childcare responsibilities in whatever way works best for them, and enable both parents to spend time developing that vital bond with their baby in the early stages.

When men were asked what they thought the main benefits of shared parental leave would be, 6 in 10 said they thought they would form a closer bond with their child. However almost half (44%) said it would feel fairer, and 39% said they could let their partner get back to their job or progress their career.

Over half of men (57%) thought that being more involved in the baby’s life would be a good thing for their whole family, and around a third felt it would strengthen their relationship with their partner.

Brendan Lynch, a 31 year old legal caseworker from Cardiff, took 3 months of leave to care for his son Isaac, while his wife Laura went back to work. He said:

The bond you get with your child is the best thing about it. Getting to experience looking after a child full-time is invaluable – I understand his likes and his personality so much better. Within the 3 months I was looking after him he had changed so much. It’s great that both my wife and I got to see different aspects of his development.

Press here for a copy of the full report
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Notes to editors
Opinion Matters surveyed 2,138 UK adults between 4 and 11 December 2014. 1,232 of these are parents.
The shared parental leave system will give parents more choice and freedom in how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth. Only eligible employees can apply for Shared Parental Leave.
This will enable both mothers and fathers to keep a strong link to the workplace; encourage fathers to play a greater role in the early stages of their child’s life; and allow employers and employees greater flexibility in reaching agreement on how to best balance work and domestic needs without state interference.
Shared parental leave and pay comes into effect for babies due on or after 5 April 2015, or adoptions where the child is placed on or after 5 April 2015.
Under the scheme, working couples will be able to share untaken maternity leave and pay, following the first 2 weeks recovery period that mothers have to take off after birth, so up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared.
The pattern of leave must be agreed between the employer and employee, with 8 weeks’ notice. Parents can take leave at the same time, so they can be at home together from the birth if this arranged.
SPL – how it will work:
shared parental leave must be taken in weekly blocks. It can be stopped and started, so periods of work can be interspersed with periods of leave for childcare. Each parent notifies their employer of their entitlement and “book” the leave with at least eight weeks’ notice
an employee can book more than 1 period of leave in a single booking notification
an employee may submit up to 3 booking notifications, and more if the employer agrees
where requested as discontinuous blocks, the employer may require the employee to take leave in a continuous block, at a date chosen by the employee
each parent can use up to 20 SPL “in touch” days to go into work, so could effectively take shared parental leave and work on a part-time basis for a period
SPL can be taken at any time in the first year following the child’s birth/placement