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Advice for Women Planning to Use New Shared Parental Leave Provisions

By Practice Group Leader, Employment

New research out this week shows that women in the UK are keener to return to work than ever before.

Almost half of women (43%) are likely to return to work sooner than they would like after having their baby, according to new research by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).

Of those, 47% said this is due to concerns over job security. Some women are returning to work extremely quickly. The report, which surveyed over 2,000 men and women in the UK, found that overall 4% said they took less than two weeks maternity leave.

New legislation permitting parental leave to be shared is due to be introduced from April 2015.

Interestingly only 37% of women said they would not consider sharing parental leave with their partner, which perhaps means a higher take up than many have predicted. Of these, half (50%) said it was because they need the income generated by their partner’s pay. Although over a third (36%) said that they felt it was their responsibility as a mother to stay at home and look after their children.

Employers and employees will need to get to grips with the new provisions, which are not without complications, to make full use of them.

This is in addition to the imminent change to the law from 30 June 2014, where employees with at least 26 weeks' employment will be able to make a flexible working request for any reason at all.

Currently employees can only make a request to care for certain adults or children. This in theory should help mothers and fathers alike as a cultural shift towards flexible working will hopefully make it more widely acceptable.

Although the statistics are concerning in that women are feeling further pressure to return to work before they are ready, it is a step in the right direction that shared parental leave will give dads the opportunity to spend time with their children and mothers more choice as to when to return to work.

Further, extending the right to request flexible working to all employees may allow working parents more opportunity to work in a way that suits them both better without the stigma currently associated with alternative working methods.

We will watch this space to see whether these new workplace practices are taken up and whether they have a positive impact on working families.

Deborah Casale is an Employment Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

For more information or to speak with an Employment Solicitor call freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help.

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