Shared Parental Leave
Shared Parental Leave provides a real opportunity for employers to demonstrate their support for parents, and their commitment to equality between men and women within the wider context of a supportive work-life culture. Awareness of Shared Parental Leave is already higher than it has been for Additional Paternity Leave, the little-used scheme it replaces from April 2015, and take up is likely to be higher than it ever was for APL. The Working Families legal advice helpline, for example, shows women and men already enquiring about eligibility and entitlement.
The workplace of the future will be shaped by the aspirations and values of a younger generation of workers, who have an expectation of more equally shared work and parenting, and opportunities for full participation in family life. Already amongst Working Families employer members, anecdotal indications are that take-up of SPL could be as high as 20 per cent and that men will take between four and 12 weeks, most likely when the new baby arrives and then again when their partner transitions back to work.
Working Families believe that employers should seriously consider matching contractually enhanced pay and benefits during SPL to those currently available to women employees who are on maternity leave. The potential gains, from an engagement point of view, are substantial, and the marginal costs relatively low – for larger employers, the equivalent of two or three extra maternity leavers per hundred each year. But we realise that at present, many employers either do not feel ready to match their maternity package, or offer only statutory leave and pay. Still they are committed to creating inclusive workplaces which support fathers. These employers should concentrate on communications to promote SPL as a new statutory right which the organisation welcomes and which it encourages all employees who are expecting or planning children to consider for their family.
SPL is really a chance for employers to benefit from increased engagement and commitment, by going with the grain of employees’ family lives and aspirations as new parents. We are seeing the beginning of a quiet revolution in how fathers and mothers share work and care.