Shared Parental Leave one year on: baby steps

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Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was introduced a year ago, marking a very significant shake up to the family leave rights regime. BLP’s new survey suggests that in its first year, levels of uptake of SPL vary greatly, with factors such as job type, enhanced pay and workplace perceptions playing a key part in whether employees take SPL.

Are employees taking Shared Parental Leave?

At the time the government introduced SPL, it proclaimed that the new right was a landmark development aimed at helping families to balance their responsibilities at home and at work. The government predicted an initial 2-8% take up by eligible fathers.  Research by the charity Working Families indicates that in the first six months since introduction, only between 0.5 and 2 per cent of eligible fathers have made use of SPL rights.  However, the research also says that 71% of employers expect take-up to increase in the future.

BLP’s own survey of clients to assess the impact of SPL one year on has highlighted the following key findings:

  • The majority of respondents have had no SPL requests from their staff. Those who have had SPL requests said there was a low take-up by employees, in line with the Working Families statistic mentioned above.
  • Employers who offered enhanced Shared Parental Pay (SPP) were more likely to have SPL requests from staff.  Respondents cited examples where staff said they would not have taken SPL if there had been no enhanced pay.
  • Employees taking SPL typically did so in one single block. However, a small minority of respondents cited examples where staff did take SPL in separate chunks, especially if the employees in question carried out project-based roles where this arrangement could be more easily accommodated.

Why the slow take-up of shared parental leave?

There are many potential reasons why the initial take-up of SPL appears slower than the government expected. 

  • Stigma: Some employees cite concerns of a career-related stigma associated with taking time off work to care for children. 
  • Inter-generational attitudes: Others suggest there is an inter-generational divide on attitudes towards SPL, with older generations showing less support towards fathers who choose to take family leave. 
  • Complexity: Employers highlight the complexity of the SPL regime and the difficulties of communicating it to staff in an understandable way.  Some of our survey respondents who have been championing the new right have taken active steps to address this by internally publicising the stories of those who have taken SPL. 

What’s next for Shared Parental Leave?

The development of SPL is by no means over. The government is due to launch a consultation in May 2016 to consider extending the regime to grandparents. The consultation will also consider ways to streamline the SPL and SPP system, including ways to simplify the eligibility and notification requirements.

We welcome your views

Family leave rights remain highly topical, with the recent increase in focus on the position of women at work, the shift in the way working parents view their family and working responsibilities, and the planned introduction of gender pay gap reporting.  We welcome your views on the impact of SPL on your business and any SPL issues or success stories from the last year.

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