We partnered with NCT, a charity for parents in the UK, to test ways to increase men’s intended uptake of parental leave and participation in childcare and housework. We ran a two-armed randomised controlled trial (n = 1,500) reaching first-time parents through NCT’s pregnancy newsletter. Subscribers in the intervention group received behaviourally-informed content about parental leave, and sharing housework and childcare. The control group received the pre-existing newsletter.
The intervention drew on a number of behavioural insights, but at its core it reframed decision-making around unpaid care as a shared responsibility rather than one borne primarily by women, which is often the implication of most pregnancy advice for parents.
The intervention did not increase men’s intended parental leave in the overall sample. However, the trial was designed primarily to target women with male partners, since most pregnancy content is written for women. Among women reporting their male partner’s leave (95% of the sample), the intervention marginally significantly increased men’s intended days of parental leave by around 10% from 32.0 days to 35.1 days. The intervention did not significantly change men’s intended share of childcare or housework, or how much couples discussed these issues.
Given that engagement with newsletters generally tends to be low, we consider this to be a promising result. Other channels, such as parental leave discussions with HR in the workplace, would be worth exploring and may have greater impact.