Why we need to embrace shared parental leave

In theory, dads having just a few weeks paternity leave is a thing of the past. In fact, since Shared Parental Leave (SPL) became law in 2015, many have been entitled to be home with their new babies for up to 50 weeks – with mum being back at the career coal face instead.

So why did only 1% to 6% of new parents take advantage of this last year? (That’s according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) figures published following a freedom of information request last September.)

The reasons seem to be:

  • SPL works out as too expensive for family budgets because it is not paid at the same rate or in the same way as maternity leave – unless employers are more generous.
  • Dads are worried that staying at home will affect their career chances. Research has shown that dads on leave get lower performance ratings and steeper reductions in future earnings. Experience in Sweden and Germany suggests that more men will take parental leave if they are paid more for it.

Fight the pay gap

Hmm, that sounds familiar. Women’s careers have always suffered as a result of having to take long periods of time out of work for maternity leave, contributing to the gender pay gap as a result.

I spoke out against the gender pay gap in my House of Commons speech earlier this year, and think SPL offers an opportunity to do something about it. 

At Confidence to Return, we offer Parental coaching to help your employees – female or male – make an effective return to work after a longer break.

Shared Parental Leave explained

First a quick explainer on SPL. It is meant to make it easier to share responsibility for raising children and so improve women’s career chances. They can avoid a long and potentially damaging career break if their partners can take paid time off too.

Mothers can swap 50 weeks of their maternity leave for 50 weeks leave and up to 37 weeks’ pay that can be shared between them and their partners. (Maternity leave still must be taken for 2 weeks after birth).

You can use SPL to take leave:

  • in blocks separated by periods of work
  • all in one go.

Both parents can be off work together or choose to stagger the leave and the pay.

For example, if a mother ends her maternity leave 12 weeks after her child is born, 40 weeks of leave remain. She’s got choices how to use that. For example:

  • she can take 30 weeks and her partner can take the other 10 weeks
  • she can take 5 weeks and her partner can take 35 weeks
  • they can both take 20 weeks of leave, at the same time or different times.

The rules are the same for people adopting a child.

(SPL is for people classified as ‘employees’, while Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is for people who are classified as ‘workers’ and have fewer employment rights.)

For full details of who qualifies and how see Shared parental leave and pay at gov.uk 

Why embrace SPL

So, what are the 99 % of new families, and you – as their employers – missing out on by not embracing SPL?

At Confidence to Return, we think a flexible, generous approach to SPL could makes sense for you because:

  • It allows valuable women employees to keep their careers on track
  • It shows you are addressing the gender pay gap, by ensuring women employees aren’t forced to put their careers on hold.
  • It gives male employees valuable time with their children, that will help them feel better about their work-life balance and be more productive as a result.
  • Employers get motivated employees – women and men – who are happy with their family work-life balance and are where they want to be.
  • It drops the stereotypical ‘dad in the office’ and ‘mum at home’ idea. To get the best out of employees, recognise them as individuals with circumstances that are specific to them.
  • It makes you a forward-thinking employer of choice.

Confidence to Return is all about personal circumstances and providing your employees with a bespoke service that meets their needs, and yours as a business.

Coaching for all parents

We offer more than traditional maternity leave coaching. Becoming a parent is life-changing, whatever your gender or family format. It brings fresh challenges and new priorities that can make it hard to balance a new family with a career

Our Parental Programmes:

  • guide your employees through their experience
  • give new parents tools to adjust to their new roles as working parents
  • support a well-managed return to work
  • are inclusive and gender neutral

Confidence to Return offers bespoke packages for:

  • maternity leave
  • fathers taking shared parental leave
  • adoption
  • same-sex parenting
  • IVF / surrogacy / woman-to-woman egg transfer

'I … count myself very lucky that my firm provides a period of fully paid shared parental leave'

Thoughts from a father

Finally, some thoughts from Raoul Parekh, a senior associate at GQ Employment Law. He explains his personal experience of SPL in a blog for employeebenefits.co.uk that is well worth a read. 

He says: ‘I am currently in between two periods of shared parental leave following the birth of our son and count myself very lucky that my firm provides a period of fully-paid shared parental leave.

‘Having that time off was immeasurably valuable, and I hope I would have taken time off even if it had not been paid.’

Explore SPL

We’ve got a long way to go before SPL helps us beat the gender pay gap and give both parents a fair role at home and at work. There’s no doubt it is a complex issue, but we think it’s essential one to explore.

If you want to help your employees manage new parenthood and work, today, get in touch with Confidence to Return.

Returning to work is our business. Get in touch to find out how we can help you support your employees.

Sandie Dennis

Call 07939 916779

Email sandie@confidencetoreturn.co.uk

Visit www.confidencetoreturn.co.uk

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