Should employers be enhancing SPL pay to match maternity schemes?
It’s been over a year since the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) in April 2015, so why are mums still left holding the baby in the majority of families?
SPL was intended to give parents greater choice and flexibility over their childcare arrangements during the first 12 months of their baby’s life. The aim was to change the culture of parenting in the UK by enabling fathers to take extended leave close to their child’s birth. However, only a small proportion of men eligible to take the leave have exercised this right.
Research across 200 organisations by consultancy My Family Care has revealed that in 40 per cent of the organisations, no male employees had taken SPL. Data from HMRC shows that only 3,000 couples took SPL in the first three months of 2016, which equates to 2 per cent of those families in which the mother took maternity leave during this time. This is at the lower end of the government’s forecast of an uptake by eligible fathers of between 2 and 8 per cent.
So, what’s the reason for this low uptake and should employers be encouraging greater participation by fathers?
Most employers do not currently offer enhanced shared parental pay. For many families, this means it is not viable for the father to take SPL since he would be paid at the statutory rate (currently £139.58 per week) and would receive no pay at all once this was exhausted.
But there is more to the low levels of take up than the financials. Sweden introduced its equivalent to shared parental leave in 1974: each parent could take up to six months’ leave. However, 20 years later, 90 per cent of leave was still being taken by mothers. The country then introduced a ‘daddy quota’, 30 days’ leave that had to be taken by the father – otherwise the family would lose the entitlement to the leave altogether. This year, the daddy quota has been increased to 90 days. This has driven a culture in which it is normal for fathers to take a leave of absence from work to care for their babies, although mothers still take the lion’s share of the leave.
It would seem that the key to driving increased uptake of SPL by fathers is to give them an exclusive entitlement to leave. This is a matter for parliament, but where does this leave employers?
When the new regime was announced, some employers were keen to embrace it as a way of demonstrating their family-friendly credentials, while others feared the financial and practical implications. Over a year on, those employers which initially adopted a conservative approach may wish to reconsider their position. Businesses which have not offered enhanced pay for SPL to date can take some reassurance from the statistics. Levels of uptake are unlikely to become unmanageable in terms of cost or disruption to the workplace any time soon. Offering enhanced pay for SPL can be beneficial in terms of recruitment and employee retention, as well as helping an employer brand itself as progressive and inclusive.
But there is another reason why employers should consider it. Employers who offer enhanced pay for employees on maternity leave but not for employees on SPL are at risk of claims for indirect sex discrimination by fathers unable to benefit from enhanced pay. While there have been no reported cases of this kind to date, in 2014
Ford Motor Company found itself on the receiving end of a claim by an employee who maintained the company had indirectly discriminated against him by offering enhanced maternity pay but not enhanced pay for additional paternity leave.
The employment tribunal in that case, Shuter v Ford Motor Company, accepted the company’s argument that the disadvantage to male employees caused by this difference in approach was justified by the company’s legitimate aim of promoting the recruitment and retention of women in a male-dominated workplace. While that claim was unsuccessful, it is far from clear that a similar one brought in respect of SPL pay would fail.
Employers would do well to review their current SPL arrangements with a view to considering whether it is time for a new approach.
Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/09/09/low-shared-parental-leave-take-up-is-due-to-pay-rate-says-research.aspx