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Invited speakers at the the Workplace and Gender Equality Research Programme
Left to right: Wendy Olsen (Manchester), Katherine Twamley (UCL), Heejung Chung (Kent), Hilary Spencer (Director, Government Equalities Office), Holly Birkett (Birmingham) Sarah Forbes (Birmingham) and Collete Fagan (Manchester)

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was introduced in April 2015 and yet, the number of eligible parents that have taken it remains very low. Research completed by Dr Holly Birkett and Dr Sarah Forbes at the University of Birmingham explores what is preventing families from taking up this policy and have identified important barriers at the policy, organisational, societal (e.g. gendered expectations) and communication levels (to name a few).

As national experts on the subject of SPL, they were invited by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) to take part in the inaugural seminar series for the Workplace and Gender Equality Research Programme, which involved invited speakers presenting research findings that were relevant to reducing the gender pay gap.

This event took place in Westminster and was attended by academics from across the UK and departmental members of the Department of Work and Pensions, Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, Department of Health and Social Care, as well as those in Treasury and GEO. In particular, the event offered the opportunity for invited speakers to directly engage with government departments and outline research findings that would help employers to take evidence-based action. 

As invited speakers, Forbes and Birkett highlighted the issues faced by organisations on the subject of SPL, an area not previously researched. Birkett and Forbes also outlined how organisations could be better supported and encouraged in their implementation of SPL, including offering recommendations to the government. Alongside the other speakers of the inaugural series of this important research programme, they were able to direct and highlight research that is needed to advance family inclusivity and gender equality in the workplace for the future.