Only 5 per cent of new fathers opt for shared parental leave



Four-fifths of employers have received no SPL requests, according to new CIPD data

Just 5 per cent of new fathers and 8 per cent of new mothers have taken up shared parental leave (SPL) since it was introduced in April 2015, according to new data from the CIPD.

Only one-fifth (21 per cent) of the 1,050 senior HR professionals surveyed for the report said they had received requests from male employees to take up SPL. None of the two-thirds (67 per cent) of surveyed organisations who employ new mothers who are eligible for SPL have opted in, found the survey.

Under the SPL regulations, parents can share up to 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ statutory pay in the first year of their child’s life.

Kirstie Axtens, head of employer services at Working Families, said the low uptake was down to the policy still being in its early days. “This is a completely new way for parents to share work and care,” she said.

Rachel Suff, employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “Shared parental leave was a milestone for gender equality when it was introduced; the intentions were right, and on paper it gives new parents much more choice and flexibility. However, the complexity of the rules and the financial gap between statutory maternity pay and statutory shared parental pay in the early weeks are clearly outweighing these positives in reality for many.”

Alan Price, CEO of Croner Group, added: “While shared parental leave is theoretically great, it does not address the practical financial implications.”

The financial differentials between paternity and maternity pay have already come under scrutiny from employment tribunals. A father was awarded almost £30,000 after his employer, Network Rail,refused to pay him the same rate as his wife during their shared parental leave, despite the fact that she was also employed by the company.

The CIPD research also attributed the low take-up rates to a lack of affordable childcare for children up to the age of two. But extending SPL to cover grandparents – which has been mooted by some as a possible solution to the lack of childcare availability – was said by 25 per cent of respondents to be a step too far.

“Government and employers should now set their sights higher – and tackle the barriers to fathers using it,” said Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families. “Extending it to grandparents, as the government has proposed, is a red herring that will further complicate and undermine the policy’s intention – to encourage fathers to share care of their new baby.”

Employers need to offer more family-friendly policies and benefits, such as flexible working, urged the report. Just 30 per cent of those surveyed said their organisation actively promotes flexible working options to employees who have caring responsibilities. Only 11 per cent said their company has a childcare policy that covers the range of support available to working parents.

“We know that too often flexible working is viewed as doing an employee a favour – rather than a way of doing business,” said Axtens. “Employers should shift their starting point for recruitment so that vacancies are advertised flexibly as the norm, rather than the exception.”

Suff added: “Employers need to review their support for carers, before they lose valuable talent from across their workforce.”

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