Back in 2015, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was introduced by the government with the aim of granting fathers extended time off with their baby, while also enabling mothers to return to work earlier. It was aimed at offering a more flexible way for parents to spend time with their new arrivals and allowing fathers extended time off beyond the statutory fortnight which can still be used prior to starting a period of SPL.
SPL allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave, 37 of which are paid. The mother curtails her Maternity Leave, allowing the father access to the remaining balance, which can either be used one after the other, or at the same time.
Three years later, not is all what it seems, and according to Monster.co.uk, nearly half of the UK’s workforce did not know whether their employer offered Shared Parental Leave. The government have recently estimated that the take up of Shared Parental Leave is just 2%.
However, SPL has also divided opinions – for example, Monster found that 20% of UK workers didn’t see the value of SPL and a third of those people felt that the mother should receive as much leave as possible, rather than giving some of her allocated Maternity Leave to the father of the baby. A research project by University College London (UCL) showed that just over 50% of pregnant women raised concerns that SPL could disadvantage parents financially.
The focus is now turning on employers, who need to ‘tackle the stigma’ associated with SPL. This is according to speakers at the Women Lawyers and Mothers Organisation, who have also suggested that fathers were reluctant to take SPL due to perceived male stereotypes in the workplace.
Sandie Dennis, the keynote speaker at the inaugural event, said that workplace culture was central to the lack of take up of SPL. Meanwhile, the CEO of The Talent Keeper Specialists, Jessica Chivers, suggests that male ‘poster boys’ need to put themselves forward to promote SPL so that fathers don’t feel as intimidated to take it.
Taking SPL, instead of the standard 52 week Maternity Leave, should help women get back into the swing of work sooner. Despite this, men are hesitating in taking SPL out of their own fears of missing opportunities at work.
As businesses work towards maintaining equality, and taking into account the gender pay gap which has dominated the press in 2018, it’s a perfect opportunity to look at the positives of SPL. SPL essentially allows fathers to have more time off with their new born babies, not just the statutory two weeks Paternity Leave. As Sandie Dennis said during her speech, “if men see examples of colleagues who have taken SPL, it makes a huge difference. In some industries, it’s breaking the norm, and it takes someone being a trailblazer to say ‘it’s my right’”
The hope is that once the stigma and complications with SPL are broken down, and companies get to grips with the process, the take up will increase.
If you have any queries on Shared Parental Leave and other Family Leave, please contact a member of the HPC team:
T: 0844 800 5932