Has Shared Parental Leave already failed?

When Shared Parental Leave was announced, it was applauded as potentially heralding the end of gender discrimination in the workplace. But, mere days after coming into effect, it’s already running into some problems.

Here are some of the chief complaints people have against it:

  • HR teams are calling it an “administrative nightmare” and claiming that the legislation is unclear.
  • It is only applicable to couples who both work – if one is a stay-at-home parent, then the other will not be entitled to Parental Leave. This is a particular barrier to men, seeing as Shared Parental Leave has completely replaced Additional Paternal Leave. It could leave many men unable to take more than the statutory two weeks’ leave.
  • For many people, Shared Parental Leave will not be financially viable. Shared Parental Leave offers no more than £139.58 per week, whereas Maternity Leave guarantees women 90% of their weekly salary for the first six weeks. It also doesn’t pay anything at all for the final 13 weeks of leave.

So far, only 8% of workers have applied for Shared Parental Leave. So has it failed?

No. One big benefit to Shared Parental Leave is the flexibility it offers, and we all know that workers crave flexibility. Not only can parents split leave between themselves, they can also take blocks of leave. So a mother or father could return to work after two months, only to take another block of leave three months after that. It can meet the parents’ needs.

Shared Parental Leave pay can also be increased at the employer’s discretion, much like Maternity Pay. So, as an employee, it isn’t something you should dismiss out of hand for financial reasons. Speak to your manager or to HR and find out what your company’s policy is.

It remains to be seen, though, whether Shared Parental Leave will have a knock-on effect on the position of women in the workplace.

It is an outdated notion that women have to accept that having a baby will affect their career, while men can have children without worrying that it will have any impact on their working life. This new legislation could go some way to redressing that. It will benefit women who don’t want to interrupt their career path, while also benefitting men who want to spend more time with their children and felt unable to do so under the previous rules.

Attitudes don’t change overnight, though, and it’s likely that women will continue to take the majority of parental leave for some time. Of course, many women prefer to do that, and the new legislation won’t affect that choice in anyway.

The point of Shared Parental Leave is to give parents more choice and flexibility. It seems that there are still some creases to iron out, but once companies have adjusted to the new processes things should get smoother.

We help our clients and candidates navigate new employment legislation, so if you have any questions about how Shared Parental Leave affects you or your company, email us on info@devonshire.co.uk.

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