In April 2015 the government implemented new legislation to make parental leave shareable with the objective of challenging the old fashioned assumption that women will always be the parent that stays at home. It was intended to give parents the choice and flexibility in caring for their children and to help mothers who wanted to return to work early share responsibility for the care of their child. It was anticipated that the introduction of SPL would be unlikely to impact significantly given the potential financial implications, lack of career progression and women’s potential reluctance to share their leave.
Given that we are now year into the changes it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the impact that SPL has actually had. It appears that fathers have been reluctant to take advantage of the SPL rules mainly on the basis of the financial limitations. Research among 200 employers conducted by My Family Care found that 80% of employees surveyed said that the decision whether they would elect for SPL would depend on whether their employers would pay more than they were obliged to. With statutory pay for parental leave currently set to a maximum of £139.58 per week it could be that many working fathers continue to believe that it’s their duty to go out and earn the money.
Another important consideration that may be affecting the implementation of SPL is women’s reluctance to share their leave. Research suggests that 55% of women surveyed said that they would not want to. However, notwithstanding the potential limitations, the implementation of SPL can only serve to eradicate the inequalities that woman have long suffered in the workplace, by giving them the option to share their leave and combine work and family. It should enable women to carry on with their careers more easily whilst having a family.
Whilst take up at this early stage is low its introduction is a massive step forward when it comes to equality in the workplace. Given that the implementation of SPL is relatively new there is the possibility that employees remain unaware of their SPL rights. However, given that there has been much press coverage on this matter in recent weeks, it is vital that employers are prepared in the event that they are approached with regards to SPL requests or queries.
Not all employees are eligible for SPL and I have summarised some of the most important considerations below. In order to qualify for SPL it must first be established that they are:
- The child’s mother, and share the main responsibility for the care of the child with the child’s father or with her partner;
- The child’s father and share the main responsibility for the care of the child with the child’s mother; or
- The mother’s partner and share the main responsibility for the care of the child with the mother (where the child’s father does not share the main responsibility with the mother).
The following conditions must also be fulfilled:
- The employee must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment by the end of the qualifying week, and still be employed in the week before the leave is to be taken;
- The other parent must have worked (in an employed or self-employed capacity) in at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the expected week of confinement and had average weekly earnings of at least £30 during 13 of those weeks; and
- The employee and the other parent must give the necessary statutory notices and declarations, including notice to end any maternity leave, statutory maternity pay (SMP) or maternity allowance (MA) periods.
The total amount of SPL available is 52 weeks, less the weeks spent by the child’s mother on maternity leave (or the weeks in which the mother has been in receipt of SMP or MA if she is not entitled to maternity leave).
There is the real possibility that implementation of SPL policies will become increasingly common. However there are many hurdles to overcome first. If you have any further queries with regards to any of the above do not hesitate to contact me on 0151 239 1009 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.