The ‘share the joy’ campaign was launched this year by the government to promote Shared Parental Leave for working parents, which can be taken in their baby’s first year.

Around 285,000 couples are eligible every year for shared parental leave, yet according to the Department for Business, take-up “could be as low as 2%”. Business Garage gives an overview of the pros and cons of Shared Parental Leave.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

  • Shared parental leave (SPL) was introduced in April 2015
  • Parents can share 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after they have a baby (either through birth or adoption)
  • Parents can take time off separately or can be at home together for up to six months
  • SPL can be taken in one continuous block, or several blocks of leave (depending on agreement with the employer)
  • SPL is currently paid at the statutory rate of £140.98 per week or 90% of the employee’s average earnings, whichever is lower

Why is the take-up so low?

Lack of awareness, cultural inhibitions and financial concerns seem to be the main deterrents for parents. Hopefully the topical focus on gender diversity will further reduce the stigma for fathers worried about how asking for time off might impact on their career.

Employers may understandably be initially reluctant to promote leave which could reduce the capacity of the workforce. However, there are definite advantages to creating a flexible working culture.

What are the benefits for the employee?

Who doesn’t want to enjoy time off work with their newborn or newly adopted child? SPL is an excellent opportunity for partners or spouses to care for and bond with their child, while receiving statutory pay and with the security of having a job to return to. When the parents come back to work they will hopefully feel less like they are missing precious first moments.

What are the benefits for the employer?

A flexible working culture enables companies to recruit and, importantly, retain loyal and motivated employees. Legally, employers have to offer SPL, but taking the next step of engendering a positive approach towards SPL and actively promoting it helps to foster a more engaged and productive workforce.

SPL also enables mothers to return to work sooner, reassured that their partner is spending time with their child. And of course SPL benefits the child having special one-to-one time with their parents.

What can businesses do to encourage take-up?

Remember, each employee will be off for less than a year (a maximum of 50 weeks shared between parents) and if paying statutory SPL rates the only costs to your business will be if you need to arrange temporary cover. You should have a happier employee as a result. Here are some tips on how to encourage take-up:

  • Create a clear Shared Parental Leave policy
  • Consider whether your business could offer discretionary SPL pay over and above the statutory rates, especially if you already offer enhanced maternity pay, to ease financial concerns for employees
  • Communicate the policy to your employees
  • Have procedures in place so that you are prepared should a member of staff give notice of intention to take SPL
  • Use Shared Parental Leave In Touch (SPLIT) days to maintain a good relationship with your employees, retain their interest and utilise their skills. SPLIT days can be training, working or team days, and are paid at normal working rate.

Business Garage works with clients across Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Thames Valley and London. Discuss your HR requirements by calling 01235 433099.

Resources:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-share-the-joy-campaign-promotes-shared-parental-leave-rights-for-parents

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43026312