Shared Parental Leave
Shared parental leave has come up often over the last few years when I’ve chatted to my HR friends and contacts. Some recent statistics show that as few as 2% of new parents used shared parental leave in the last year – why is this the case?
Why are people not taking advantage of SPL?
The research showed that most people have not taken advantage of shared parental leave because they’re not able to afford living off the statutory weekly pay - making SPL an unaffordable option for many.
There’s also an argument to be made that a lot of people are simply unaware of SPL being an option, or that what is offered by employers is not well understood by staff. Sadly, some negative cultural stereotypes still exist, so even when someone would like to take SPL they may not feel they are able to, i.e. they feel they’d be letting the team down, they’d miss out on opportunities, it may reflect badly on them, and so on.
The government is aiming to encourage more parents to share their maternity leave through awareness campaigns and social media, but what could employers be doing to show that it’s an accessible and viable option?
What can employers do?
Some organisations are now offering more generous SPL payments to make it more accessible to their employees. It’s also important to couple this with increased engagement and awareness – supporting and encouraging those who choose to take it. This encouragement should include men who wish to take SPL and same-sex couples.
Having returned from maternity leave recently, my husband and I chose to share the maternity leave. We’ve discovered a few benefits have been;
- I was able to return to work sooner;
- My husband had the opportunity to bond more with our baby, meaning he was more involved in the day to day care and having the opportunity to see more of our baby’s development; and
- There was an equal understanding on both sides that being a stay at home parent and a working parent are both hard work!
SPL isn’t for everyone and sometimes individual circumstances will prevent people from using it, but the option should be widely available to everyone.