While around 285,000 couples every year qualify for Shared Parental Leave, take up could be as low as 2%
Shared Parental Leave allows eligible parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after having a baby. Parents can choose to take the time off separately or they can be at home together for up to 6 months.
Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said, “Shared Parental Leave gives choice to families. Dads and partners don’t have to miss out on their baby’s first step, word or giggle – they can share the childcare, and share the joy. Employers can reap the benefits too. We know that flexibility in work is proven to create happier, more loyal and more productive workforces. Providing truly flexible employment options is a key part of the Industrial Strategy, the government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future by helping businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK.”
Even with all the benefits SPL poses, around half of the general public are unaware that the option exists for parents and the government estimates that between 2% and 8% of eligible parents will take share parental leave in its first few years.
A survey from workingmums.co.uk revealed that the main reason for low take up of SPL was financial and 66% of respondents stated that increasing Shared Parental Pay would make no difference in their decision.
Shared Parental Leave was introduced in 2015 to offer choice to eligible parents when it comes to childcare and allow mothers to return to work sooner if they wish to. The policy allows employers to retain talent in their workforce and contribute to closing their gender pay gap and skills gap.
James Malia, Director of Employee Benefits at Sodexo Engage comments, “It’s disappointing, but it’s no surprise that so few men are taking advantage of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), even three years after the government launched it. The first question to ask is, do fathers and fathers-to-be understand SPL? Employers need to make sure staff can easily get hold of the information they need to find what SPL is and how to apply for it. Leaving leaflets around the office or letting staff know over email, by letter or through online portals are all simple ways to get the message out there.”
“There are a lot of myths and taboos around SPL that need to be busted. There’s a stigma attached to it for fathers. Many feel that their careers could be impacted by taking time off, which isn’t the case at all. By talking about it more openly, HR can normalise SPL in the workplace and correct any misunderstandings. Businesses can use senior staff as examples too. Are there men that have used SPL who can shout loud and proud about their experiences? This’ll create living proof that someone can take this time off and still be a success in the office.”
To combat this the government is spending £1.5 million on a campaign encouraging parents to ‘Share the joy’. Aiming to reach parents through digital adverts, social media and adverts in train stations and on commuter routes.