Shared Parental Leave comes into full effect on 5th April. Couples adopting on or after this date as well as parents with a baby due on or after 5th April 2015 might be entitled to this new form of leave from work.
As notice must be given at least eight weeks before the leave is due to start some workplaces will already have taken notices for Shared Parental Leave.
Parents will be entitled to share 50 weeks of leave per child following their birth, in addition to the compulsory 2 weeks of maternity leave and 2 weeks of paternity leave. Any entitlement to maternity leave must be “curtailed” or reduced by the number of weeks of Shared Parental Leave to be taken.
The flexibility Shared Parental Leave offers is beneficial at what is undoubtedly a tiring time for parents.
Over the course of the year following their child’s birth or adoption, parents can take Shared Parental Leave, return to work and resume their leave at a later date. Another benefit is that partners can choose how to share their time off work, either parent can take time off to care for the child or both could take time together.
Shared Parental Leave shows increasing recognition of the importance of fatherhood in bringing up a child.
However, one of the main criticisms of Shared Parental Leave is that 40% of dads are ineligible. Indeed if only one parent within the couple is eligible, the leave cannot be shared. For eligibility you must have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date and your partner must have worked at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the due date (whether as an employee or freelancer). If a mother is a freelance worker then in order for her partner to be allowed to take up Shared Parental Leave she would need to end her Maternity Allowance and she could not take the leave herself.
Another criticism of Shared Parental Leave is that eligible fathers will choose not take it up because they fear experiencing Paternity Discrimination in the workplace. Can they be blamed when we’ve seen how many women on extended maternity leave are treated unfavourably by employers?
In Scandinavia most fathers take approximately three months leave so perhaps the Scandinavian model could be used to make more fathers in the UK take up Shared Parental Leave. In Sweden, where they have had shared parental leave for 40 years, they get 480 days’ leave per child and 390 days of this leave is paid at around 80% of their salary.
Perhaps replicating this generous model would convince fathers in the UK whose overriding concern is losing income to take up Shared Parental Leave. Primarily, the biggest focus in the UK will be to encourage a cultural shift which enables men to share the responsibility after birth. Without a significant change in attitude towards childcare, take up of Shared Parental Leave may be low.
Our Expert Employment Solicitors provide expert legal advice on maternity and paternity discrimination. If you or your partner have been subjected to detriment or dismissal for requesting or taking Shared Parental Leave call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9060 or alternatively contact us online.
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