What is Shared Parental Leave?
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was set up in 2015 to allow parents more flexibility when juggling work and childcare. This employment law change was designed to bring more equality between male and female working parents. Currently women’s careers are affected more greatly than men’s, due to more time off raising their children.
The new allowance allows eligible working couples to substitute Maternity Pay for SPL, sharing 50 weeks of leave. Sounds good? The uptake has been extremely low.
Do Fathers want to take up Shared Parental Leave?
Earlier this year, the ‘Fathers in the Workplace’ inquiry was carried out by The Women & Equalities’ Committee, however the inquiry was closed due to the general election. At this time, experts giving evidence quoted that over half of fathers would like to take up SPL but there were barriers preventing them from doing so.
Why is the uptake of Shared Parental Leave so low?
A survey found that around half of Fathers were worried that if they took up SPL, it would be seen negatively by employers. They fear detrimental treatment when returning for work which may affect their salary and career prospects.
Enhanced Maternity Pay
Maternity Pay from employers is often significantly enhanced compared to SPL, so it makes good financial sense for couples if the Mother takes time off work. Statutory Shared Parental Pay is currently capped at £140.98 per week, which doesn’t compare favourably to many enhanced Maternity Pay packages offered as part of generous employee benefit schemes to attract top female talent.
Gender Pay Gap
Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that there continues to be a significant gender pay gap in the UK. This means that for the majority of working parents, it makes more sense for the Father on a larger salary to continue working, while the Mother stays at home.
The future of Shared Parental Leave
A recent employment tribunal ruled that a Father was discriminated against because he was entitled to receive only statutory pay from the employer’s shared parental leave scheme, compared to Mothers on the same scheme who received enhanced pay.
It’s been found that in other countries, when Fathers parental leave increases, so does the uptake.
Currently employers are not obliged to provide enhanced Shared Parental Leave, although doing so may make employers more attractive when recruiting the best talent.
You may find these related blogs useful. Read our blogs on ‘Maternity Leave: Your rights when returning to work‘ and ‘Grandparental Leave and Pay from 2018‘