Fewer than 1% of eligible parents have taken up shared parental leave

Fewer than 1% of eligible parents have taken up the shared parental leave scheme [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]
Fewer than 1% of eligible parents have taken up the shared parental leave scheme [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]

Back in 2015 the government introduced the option of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), allowing new parents to split the leave they take from work to look after their baby.

It was claimed the change would help “level the playing field” for women in the workplace.

Gaenor Bagley, head of people at PWC, says allowing couples to share post-baby leave entitlements could take the pressure off many women when it comes to taking time out from their careers to have a baby.

But fast forward two years and a new report has revealed that fewer than 1% of eligible mums and dads have taken advantage of the shared parental leave system in the past year. Pretty disappointing stuff.

Shared Parental Leave, or SPL, was first introduced in April 2015 giving parents the option of spreading almost a year’s worth of leave between the two of them, rather than the traditional method of the mother being allocated the bulk of the time off.

A couple can split the 50 week allowance in whichever manner best suits their needs and an employer is expected to accommodate this within reason. But research by commercial law firm EMW revealed that just 8,700 new parents chose to utilise the scheme, suggested it is being “significantly underused.”

So why has it not worked out?

The report suggests the cultural stigma of men taking a lengthy break from work to care for their children could be a key reason for the low take-up.

*sighs*

Commenting on the findings Jon Taylor, of EMW, said: “Demand for the shared parental leave system remains very low, and families could be missing out by not embracing the system.”

“Fathers in particular could be concerned about coming across as less committed to their job if they ask for greater flexibility, deterring them from looking into it.”

“The fast pace of change in the workplace could mean that staff feel they can fall behind in their career just by taking a few months off,” he continued.

EMW said that increased financial pressures of new parenthood could also be deterring some people from taking shared leave. Under the scheme, employees get 90 per cent of average weekly earnings.

“This step down in income could be a deterrent against claiming, as many new parents may find they need at least one or both of their full salaries,” according to the study.

The cultural stigma of dads taking extended time off could be partly to blame for the poor uptake [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]
The cultural stigma of dads taking extended time off could be partly to blame for the poor uptake [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]

And the report also cited lack of awareness about the scheme as a potential reason for poor uptake.

“Many new parents are unclear how the system will work for their families and careers,” the study says.

“Employers must take a proactive approach towards leave for new parents, not only for mothers, but fathers too.”

“If an employer is seen as sympathetic to the needs of new parents, they are more likely to enjoy retention of staff.”

The study also suggests there could be other, more effective ways to help businesses provide family friendly policies, such as tax breaks for childcare provisions, in-work creches, and flexible working.

Despite it being 2017, the stigma surrounding dads staying at home with their children doesn’t seem to be abating.

Last year we reported on the mum who turned to the Internet to ask why it’s just assumed the woman will stay at home with the baby.

Fed up with fielding countless conversations about when or if she was returning to her job, the new mum posted on Mumsnet to ask why her husband is never asked the same thing.

“I’m on mat leave and have been asked 30+ times if I’ll be going back to work and, when I say yes, if I’ll be part time,” the mum wrote on the parenting site.

“My DH has never once been asked about his working hours since our DS was born,” she continued.

“And if I say yes I am going back to work I get “oh, will your DS go to nursery/will you get a nanny?” The idea that my DH could look after DS for some of the time while I’m at work just doesn’t even enter people’s heads.”

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