It is now over a year since Shared Parental Leave was launched on 5 April 2015.
Shared Parental Leave allows eligible couples to share up to 50 weeks of leave from work. This is in addition to the two compulsory weeks of maternity leave and two weeks of paternity leave following the birth, or adoption, of their child.
According to research from the Women’s Business Council and My Family Care only one per cent of fathers have opted to take up Shared Parental Leave.
Why Has Shared Parental Leave Not Received a Greater Pick-Up?
New regimes can take time to become common practice, especially if they must change work-life culture. It is true that the levels of uptake of Shared Parental Leave are varied with different job types.
Here are four reasons why the take up of Shared Parental Leave has so far been low:
- Finances – The main barrier for parents considering whether or not to take up Shared Parental Leave is money. With 80 per cent of the surveyed couples saying their decision would have to be based on their financial situation.
If you decide to take up Shared Parental Leave you get paid the lowest of 37 weeks of statutory pay or 90 per cent of your earnings. That is unless your employment contract enhances your rights and offers increased shared parental pay.
- Eligibility – One of the main criticisms of Shared Parental Leave has been that only 60 per cent of fathers are eligible. Plus, if one of the couple is ineligible the leave cannot be shared.
To be eligible you must have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the due date and your partner must have worked at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the due date.
- Perception – Half of new fathers think that taking more time than two weeks for paternity leave off will be perceived negatively at work.
This does not mean that in practice half of all employers view Shared Parental Leave in a negative way. The law protects your right to take Shared Parental Leave. If you are treated unfairly or dismissed as a result of taking Shared Parental Leave you can bring a claim for maternity or paternity discrimination against your employer.
If a father considers that he has been treated less favourably for taking shared parental leave than a woman would be, he will have a potential claim for direct sex discrimination.
- Awareness – Both employees and employers need to have an understanding of how shared parental leave works.
Employment lawyer Claire Dawson said, “Many fathers are still not aware of this right and others do not feel secure that their employer will support them when taking leave.”
The Future of Shared Parental Leave
The more people hear about colleagues taking Shared Parental Leave the more awareness it will raise. As more positive experiences are reported higher numbers will be encouraged to take it up.
The indicators are that there will be increased take up in the UK in the Future – research from the Women’s Business Council and My Family Care revealed 63 per cent of fathers would like to make use of Shared Parental Leave if they were to have another child. Plus, Mumsnet found that 82 per cent of their site’s users would like dads to take more parental leave. Furthermore, research from charity Working Families shows that 71 per cent of employers expect the take-up of Shared Parental Leave to increase in the future.
The UK Government plans to launch a consultation in May 2016 on how to extend Shared Parental Leave to working grandparents. As many grandparents in the UK already play an active part in helping to raise their grandchildren this is seen as a positive move, but it could be complicated to implement as leave could potentially become split between as many as six different employers.
For more information read our blog Grandparental Leave, which explores the implications of expanding Shared Parental Leave.
Slater and Gordon are experts in dealing with all types of maternity and paternity related cases.
If you have experienced unfair treatment at work for requesting Shared Parental Leave contact us on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.