About the project

Dr. Holly Birkett and Dr. Sarah Forbes are leading the Equal Parenting project with the aim of improving the use of family friendly policies in the UK and encouraging equality in the workplace.

Forbes and Birket have undertaken a wide variety of engaged research around working parents, and particularly fathers. This body of work has included interviews and focus groups with new parents to understand how they construct their roles as parents and how they understand and use the policies available to them. Birkett and Forbes have also recently conducted a national survey, to understand employees attitudes to child-caring and the role of social and organisational cultural norms in their decision making about childcare and leave.

In the case of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), Forbes and Birkett are the first academics in the UK to systematically look into the reasons for the low take up of SPL and to design interventions for improving take up at both the organisation and government level. Through the use of a strong bank of rich empirical evidence, Birkett and Forbes aim to better inform UK organisations and government departments in future decision making in this field.

Holly Birkett and Sarah ForbesAbove: Project leads Holly Birkett (Left) and Sarah Forbes (right)


As part of the Equal Parenting Project, Birkett and Forbes regularly provide specialist advice and support to organisations and government departments. They have recently acted as special academic advisors for BEIS on the update of the 2019 Maternity and Paternity Rights Survey and the 2019 review of SPL.  They were also special advisors on the BITC Equal Lives Report in 2018 and completed research on behalf of the Government Equalities Office in 2019 to understand what motivates organisations to enhance their Shared Parental Pay offering.

Forbes and Birkett also develop tools to help organisations better support parents and particularly fathers in the workplace and these are informed by best practice and existing needs outlined by parents and employers.

Learn more about the Project