Totaljobs, the UK’s leading job board, has analysed three quarters of a million job ads to review transparency around parental leave, revealing that less than 1% of them mention any type of parental leave at all.

Job ads were seven times more likely to mention perks like team socials, Christmas parties and pet-friendly offices over any kind of parental leave scheme.

Despite the fact that two thirds of the UK workforce are parents, only 1 in 5 UK workers have heard of Shared Parental Leave, and only 1 in 2 are able to define what it is.

The recent crisis has put into sharp perspective how challenging the balancing act of working while parenting actually is.


For 41% of workers, the lockdown has made them want to spend more time with their children in the future and, consequently, 30% would now like to see a strengthening of their employer’s parental leave policies. Over a third (37%) now would take more parental leave in the future.

Sharing is caring

In spite of the fact that men are just as likely to be interested in having children as women (74% vs 76%) much of the language currently used in job ads completely ignores them.

The data reveals that there are over twice as many cases of gender-specific phrases such as ‘maternity leave’ in job ads than neutral phrases such as ‘parental leave’.

The traditional assumption that mothers remain the primary carer is also evident with more than half (59% more) of job ads mentioning ‘maternity leave’ than ’paternity leave’. Of 2,758 ads for temporary parental leave covers, 16 were labelled as ‘paternity cover’.

Mum’s the Word

60% of those surveyed worry that asking about parental leave policies in an interview might give the interviewer a reason not to choose them for the job.

This affects women more than men (63% vs 55%).

It’s a similar story for worries about the position offered: 17% of women are concerned that asking about parental leave policies before or during a job interview may result in being offered a less senior position, compared to 10% of men.

Being candid is key

It can be damaging to employers who don’t openly communicate their parental leave policies when recruiting. 4 in 5 workers say they look more negatively on employers who don’t easily share this information.

A further third (36%) would be concerned about how the company generally treats their employees, and for 1 in 5 (20%), it would even stop them applying for the job.

As the nation’s businesses look at how they will have to adapt to new, post-pandemic ways of working in order to get the UK back on track, there is a unique window of opportunity for companies to step-up to the plate and finally look to bring about proactive and positive change to benefit working parents.

Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs comments:

“It’s surprising so few job ads are currently placing parental leave policies at the core of the benefits a company can provide.

Parental leave policies are important to allow necessary time off, but also to attract and retain the best talent.

At Totaljobs, we are making sure that hiring managers have the necessary training and recruitment toolkits necessary to overcome the potential unconscious biases that could influence their recruitment decisions. Using gender neutral language, the Talent Acquisition team also ensures that we avoid phrasing such as ‘maternity cover’ or other gender-coded language in our own job ads.

We need to change the expectation that women are the primary carers by enabling all parents to have the same opportunity to take paid time off to look after their child.

Employers should also reflect this shift in gender roles onto their parental leave policies. Not doing so could risk employers coming off to potential candidates as outdated, or worse, intolerant. And that’s a crucial step to truly level the playing field.

There are real positives in being proactive about those policies all throughout a candidate’s journey – from application with the contents of a job ad, to interview and hiring by providing people with the resources to understand their rights and benefits. This helps people feel part of a company culture where they will be supported as a parent and not penalised, financially or through promotion opportunities.

We’ve taken steps at Totaljobs Group to support our parents better. We’re launching a Parents Network run by and for our employees, which will work alongside our HR ‘Parental Leave Champion’ to support parents and expectant parents navigate the existing policies and understand the rights and options open to them.”