Posted on 13.2.18 by Danielle Ayres
The Government has recently announced a new £1.5m campaign aimed at making parents aware of their rights to Shared Parental Leave.
Introduced in 2015, Shared Parental Leave allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after the birth of their baby. The current regulations mean that they can take time off separately or they can be at home together.
Around 285,000 couples qualify for Shared Parental Leave, yet the take up is estimated to be as low as 2%. The Government believe this is due to a lack of awareness, claiming only half of the couples are even aware the option exists, of which, only 8% know about it in any great detail.
The ‘Share the Joy’ campaign, championed by Small Business Minister Andrew Griffiths, aims to increase public awareness for Shared Parental Leave, which they say gives parents the opportunity to share childcare responsibilities in their baby’s first year, whilst maintaining their careers.
The Campaign will encourage parents to take up Shared Parental Leave, reaching them through online advertising, social media, adverts on popular commuter routes. A website will also be launched, providing detailed information and guidance for employees.
Whilst raising awareness is extremely important, I believe there are more issues playing a part in the number of parents taking Shared Parental Leave, the main one being the systemic problem that childcare is still in the majority of cases left to women. Many men feel that there may be a stigma attached to them asking to take leave for childcare or to work flexibly, given how uncommon and even unconventional such an arrangement is perceived to be in today’s workplaces. Therefore, women take maternity leave and make flexible working requests following the same to look after their children.
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. Whilst a new website with information and guidance will help to a degree, support and guidance also need to be given to employers in order for them to better understand and therefore be able to properly facilitate Shared Parental Leave.
Not all parents/families are entitled to Shared Parental Leave either, for example, the right does not extend to those that are self-employed. This is a key issue for Mr Griffiths and one of the reasons he states he is backing the Campaign. Mr Griffiths himself is an office holder, rather than an employee and says that he will therefore only be entitled to 2 weeks’ parental leave following the birth of his first child, due later this year. With around 4.7 million self-employed people in the UK, this is a large demographic of people who are being excluded. Changes needed to be made to ensure that Shared Parental Leave is accessible to all types of working parents.
More needs to be done to make the regime easier to understand and implement and be accessible to all.
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.