It is almost a year since the Government introduced Shared parental leave allowing employees whose babies were due on or after 5th April 2015, to share their maternity leave or adoption leave with their partner. This was hailed as a new era giving opportunities to fathers to share in the care of a new born baby up to the baby’s first birthday.
Subject to meeting certain criteria, shared parental leave allows working parents to split up to 50 weeks between them or even take leave at the same time. The idea was to give parents more flexibility in how to share the care of their child.
However, most organisations have yet to see any significant uptake of this.
So, is it that male workers simply don’t want to be left holding the baby?
In some cases that may be true, but it’s more likely to be as a result of a number of other factors.
Employers – especially some SME’s – were concerned that there would be an influx of fathers taking time off and therefore did not go out of their way to share this information and opportunity with their work force. There are also cultural perceptions that fathers should not take long periods of leave and that it would ultimately affect their career progression.
Most significantly, it comes down to economics. Whilst a number of organisations provide enhanced maternity pay for maternity leave, they have not followed the same policy for shared parental leave, so for some couples it’s not financially worthwhile. The alternative scenario is if the father earns a much higher salary, which appears to be the case with heterosexual couples who may already have children. It would not make financial sense for the main bread winner to take extended leave.
In comparison to Sweden, shared parental leave is rewarded by extra leave allowance of up to two months and also enhanced pay. However, even there the uptake is reported to be about 25%.
So, a year on, very few employers have had to concern themselves with shared parental leave and only time will tell whether they will need to get a grasp of their parental leave policies.
If you would like any further information about Shared Parental Leave, Maternity Leave or Adoption Leave please contact our Employment Team on 0161 832 3304.
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