Shared Parental Leave - how you can help your employees to share the joy

Posted on: 1st Jun 2018 by: Dêmos HR Solutions

Shared Parental Leave blog by Demos HR Solutions

Do your staff know about options for Shared Parental Leave (SPL)? A government initiative introduced in April 2015, designed to make life a little easier for new parents is going largely unnoticed, and your staff could be missing out.

Becoming new parents is a steep learning curve of nappies, feeds, and sleepless nights for many couples. With both parents navigating a whole new world of joy and challenges together, a return to work for at least one member of the team in the child’s first year can present fresh obstacles, in an already stressful and unfamiliar situation.

With dads at most risk of missing out on milestones and bonding time with their little ones, once they’ve accessed their entitlement to two weeks of paid paternity leave, SPL was created to provide more equality and flexibility for couples with young babies.

Shared Parental Leave was introduced by the government in April 2015 as a measure to offer both parents a better work-life balance. With significant time and financial benefits for families, SPL can mean that both parents get more time with baby and fewer parents needing to sacrifice their career goals. With the likelihood of reduced child-care needs, parents are further reassured by the knowledge that their partner is at home taking care of baby without the strain of additional associated costs.

What does Shared Parental Leave look like?

The SPL allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave including 35 weeks of paid leave, enabling them to take time off separately or stay at home together for up to six months. SPL is paid at £140.98 a week or 90% of average earnings, whichever is lower, just like the statutory payment for maternity leave.   Traditional maternity leave is still accessible, however there is now an option to reduce the amount of maternity leave after the obligatory two week leave period, and swap this for SPL. This allows parents to choose how to split the remaining leave allowance of up to 50 weeks.

The issue

Since it was introduced, only 2% of eligible couples have taken up the opportunity to access SPL. Despite being active for three years, only 50% of the general public were aware of the existence of SPL, with the government making a concerted effort to raise awareness through their ‘Share the Joy’ campaign.

However, of the families who were aware of the system, very few of them felt it was a viable option or them. Many families found that the current rate of statutory SPL pay could not match the pay of the main breadwinner, offering very little financial incentive for parents to stay at home. Many found they were ineligible to access it, because they hadn’t been working in their role for long enough. Also, most fathers were reluctant to take SPL because of the fear they would be perceived as uncommitted to their job by their employer.

How can employers help with Shared Parental Leave?

Employers can support new parents in their workforce in several ways, including:

  • Providing information and raising awareness of Shared Paternity Leave and its benefits
  • Supporting a work-life balance for individuals through the development of robust HR policies that protect individuals who choose to access SPL
  • Offering more than the minimum pay for SPL, if you are in a position to do so, to reduce financial demands on families

SPL can be a positive experience for new parents and their employers, and Dêmos HR Solutions can give you advice in putting suitable HR policies and processes in place to support parents within your team. Contact Debbie on 07974 695 365 or complete our enquiry form for expert advice. 

Tags: maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave, HR policy,