Shared Parental Leave: Parenting revolution or business as usual?
30 Mar 2015
Mary Mercer, Principal Associate
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) will be available for working parents whose baby is due on or after 5 April 2015, or who adopt a child on or after that date. SPL will consist of 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ pay at a flat rate. The time can be shared between parents and both can be off at the same time if they want to be. SPL can be stopped and started.
Any woman who comes off her employer’s maternity scheme to go onto SPL will not be able to go back onto maternity leave and pay, so she will need to consider carefully if her employer enhances maternity leave and pay but not SPL or ShPP.
A parenting revolution?
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) are certainly hoping that SPL will lead to a ‘parenting revolution’, where both parents will take a role in caring for their child during the first year and where it will become normal for men as well as women to be off for blocks of time around the birth of their child.
What do employers think?
Is this likely? Some employers we have spoken to think it will be ‘business as usual’ and in reality mothers will not want to give up maternity leave. Other employers think differently and, like BIS, want to signal their commitment to, and encouragement of, fatherhood through their implementation of SPL and ShPP.
And what are they doing?
How these latter employers are showing their commitment and encouragement is by enhancing some or all of SPL. Some are completely matching their enhanced maternity pay while others are trying to be creative by enhancing blocks of time (eg 4, 6 or 8 weeks) to reflect what they think will best suit the fathers who work for them and in order to encourage people to take SPL in the blocks of time that they think will best suit the organisation.
Matching enhanced maternity pay will be a challenge for many organisations. Some are reducing maternity pay to enable them to do this but thinking long and hard about how far to go, given that they want to attract and retain women in their organisation. Others are getting rid of ‘return to work’ bonuses in order to invest the money into enhanced ShPP.
Challenging the status quo
However organisations implement it, it is clear that offering enhanced ShPP is essential if they really want to encourage fathers as well as mothers to get involved with that first year of life. Offering enhanced maternity pay but statutory ShPP gives the message that an organisation would prefer the status quo of female carer and male breadwinner. Even if this is a message the organisation does not want or mean to give.
SPL and ShPP are upon us. What is your implementation saying about you?