Posted on 14.2.18
The Government needs to simplify its Shared Parental Leave scheme if uptake is to improve, says one of the country’s leading employment lawyers.
According to Danielle Ayres of Gorvins solicitors, a key reason why take up is estimated to be as low as two per cent is because the Regulations surrounding Shared Parental Leave are ‘so complex’.
‘The system needs to be streamlined if the Government wants people to embrace this initiative’ says Danielle, an award winning lawyer and one of the country`s leading experts on pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
‘For instance, at the moment a woman has to first inform her employer when she wants to curtail her maternity leave before she swaps to shared parental leave. Her partner also has to provide eight weeks’ notice before he can take up his part, and cannot start any period of Shared Parental Leave until his partner’s notice has been given. Having a baby is already a time of great upheaval and having to negotiate the complexities of Shared Parental Leave probably deters so many couples from pursuing it.’
She added that being the larger wage earner as well as the stigma of taking time off to look after a child may already deter some men.
‘Even if you get past that, when you look into exactly what you have to do in order to take Shared Parental Leave, you find even the notice requirements regarding what information you need to give to your employer prior to the leave commencing, is confusing and complex.’
Under Shared Parental Leave, mothers can commit to ending their maternity leave and pay at a certain date, and their partner can share the untaken balance of leave. Parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave, or share time off together. According to figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, of around 285,000 couples who are eligible for the right, introduced in 2015, potentially only 2% have used it.
Another problem says Danielle, is that the scheme is not open to parents who are self-employed, and even if parents are employees they are excluded from the scheme if they haven’t been in job for long enough.
‘Since maternity leave is a mother’s right, regardless of how long she has worked for, then surely the same should go for parents wishing to take Shared Parental Leave.
The ‘Share the Joy’ Campaign, championed by Small Business Minister Andrew Griffiths, aims to increase public awareness for Shared Parental Leave. This information and guidance will help to a degree but support and guidance also needs to be given to employers in order for them to better understand and therefore be able to properly facilitate Shared Parental Leave`
Danielle is mother to two young boys and a Senior Associate in employment Law at Gorvins Solicitors, specialising in pregnancy/maternity and sex discrimination cases.
She is one of the go-to solicitors in this area within the UK, working closely with a number of specialist partners and organisations, including Pregnant Then Screwed and Working Mums who support working women and mums to challenge unfair treatment as a result of their pregnancy and/or maternity leave.
You can contact Danielle and the rest of the employment team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0161 930 5151.