Paternity leave: why the power of partnerships is key to driving change on this important issue

The time has come for organisations to address the paternity leave problem. At MullenLowe salt we have worked with Dove Men+Care to develop an advocacy programme around paternity leave – encouraging us to also look at our own policies.

Organisations are facing mounting pressure to rethink what the workplace looks like, and with the demands of gender pay gap reports and diversity and inclusion remits, there is nowhere to hide for those with biased and archaic parental leave policies and cultures.

We now know that the gender disparity between caregiving roles is contributing to workplace inequality. Despite uptake and earnings being split relatively equally at entry level, only 6.4% of CEO’s at Fortune 500 companies are women.

But it’s not just women demanding change: in a survey across 7 countries 85% of fathers said they “would do anything” to be more involved with caring for their child, yet less than 50% of the world’s fathers take the paternity leave available to them. Finland has recognised this problem to be so severe, that they have now made it government law that both parents get a paid leave allowance of 6.6 months as of 2021.

But in the absence of national policy, how can we, as businesses, break the stigma and encourage fathers to take up paternity leave?

At MullenLowe salt we believe in the power of partnerships: we know that businesses can achieve more by acting together; and sharing knowledge and resources for a common goal. Building connections and consensus across corporations and NGOs helps organisation create a genuine global advocacy platform, with each organisation playing to their strengths.

It is also clear that progressive businesses that take a leadership position on issues like paternity leave, gain huge reputational value – with consumers, customers and their own people.

We’ve worked with several organisations and coalitions in developing their partnerships to trigger social change; from the Toilet Board coalition in addressing the Global Sanitation Crisis; to Unilever TRANSFORM in supporting of social enterprises in Asia and Africa; to promoting dental hygiene with Signal and FDI World Dental Federation.

We have since applied this philosophy to change policies and behaviours around paternity leave. Over the last year we have been working with Dove Men+Care to establish the Paternity Leave Corporate Taskforce; a member-led coalition on a mission to improve access to and uptake of paternity leave globally. We helped the brand activate against its brand purpose unlocking men’s power to care, by mobilising a group of leading voices on paternity leave during a private roundtable discussion at WEF 2019.

Since then, we have acted as the Task Force Secretariat, responsible for recruiting, organising and calling to action a cohort of eight leading organisations with the diversity of thought, resources and influence to affect real change. Membership now includes the likes of Facebook, Bank of America, Deloitte, Promundo and Women Deliver. This approach has enabled us to build the coalition from the ground up, coordinating organisations to align on a vision, mission and importantly – plan of action for 2020 and beyond.

The work has challenged us to look at our own policies and practice.  This year we have made our own paternity and maternity leave equal, ensuring all salties are entitled to 12 months leave with enhanced pay of 90% of their salary for 6 weeks, 60% for up to 6 months and statutory week rate for the next 3 months.

This work is just the beginning, and it is only through businesses making practical changes, both internally and through partnerships, that we’ll make real progress on the goal of gender equality.

If you’re interested in hearing more about how we help brands build successful partnerships, please get in touch at hellolondon@mullenlowesalt.com.