Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave – where are we 18 months later?

Shared Parental Leave – Where are we 18 months later?

Issue

Shared Parental Leave was introduced on 5 April 2015.  The aim was to allow both parents the option of sharing the traditional year’s maternity leave between themselves.  Has it been a revolution or is the situation relatively unchanged?

What is the take up of Shared Parental Leave?

Take up of this new entitlement has been relatively poor and, whilst it is still early days, there does not appear to have been much change in work place attitudes.  In the majority of families, it is still the mums left holding the baby.

Recent research indicates the following:

  • In 40 % of organisations, no man had taken up Shared Parental Leave.
  • Only 3000 couples took Shared Parental Leave in the first three months of 2016. This equates to just 2% of those families in which the mother took maternity leave.  This is at the lower end of the government’s forecast of a take up rate of between 2% – 8%.

What is the reason for this low uptake?

Very few employers offer enhanced parental pay schemes.  This means that the father would only be paid at the statutory rate which is currently £139.58 per week.  For many families this is not financially viable.

However, money may not be the only answer.  In Sweden, shared parental leave was introduced in 1974 – 20 years later, mothers still take 90% of the leave.  So Sweden then introduced a quota of days that the father had to take – this has increased from 30 to 90 days recently and if the time is not taken it is lost.  This has forced a change in culture where it is seen as ‘normal’ for fathers to take time off work to be with their children.

So will we see parliament introduce an exclusive right for fathers to take leave?

Is there anything I should do?

The aim of introduction of shared parental leave was to try and change society’s view that it is the mother who will always be the prime carer.

Employers may want to review their policies and the uptake of shared parental leave in their company.  Employers should also be aware that recently a Glasgow tribunal in the case of Snell v Network Rail awarded a new father almost £30,000 for sex discrimination as his employer offered enhanced contractual shared parental pay for mothers/primary adopters but not to fathers or mothers’/primary adopters’ partners.  So whilst employers need to be aware of this case, it is important to point out that this case involved how both parents were able to access the same enhanced shared parental pay scheme – this case does not address whether it is discriminatory to offer enhanced pay for mothers on maternity leave but only offer statutory pay to both mothers and fathers on shared parental leave.  The government guidance is still that there is no legal requirement to offer corresponding enhancements to shared parental pay as enhanced maternity pay falls within the pregnancy/childbirth exception.

What we can do for you

We can help you review your current shared parental leave policy to make sure it is correct and up to date.  We can advise you on the more difficult issues of whether enhanced maternity benefits should be extended to those taking shared parental leave and how to deal with challenges of requests for blocks of discontinuous leave.

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