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Shared Parental Leave - one year on

Did you enjoy writing your Shared Parental Leave Policy? Is your head still hurting from trying to understand the complexities of the legislation? Have you been overwhelmed by requests for shared parental leave, making you feel that the pain and the cost were all worthwhile?

One year after the introduction of shared parental leave, the results of research carried out by My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council have been published. A survey of 200 employers and 1,000 parents/parents to be has revealed that, amongst those surveyed, fewer than 1% of men have taken up their rights to shared parental leave.

Unsurprisingly, the three main reasons for this lack of engagement were

  • the lack of financial affordability
  • a lack of awareness amongst parents of the options
  • women not wanting to share their leave with their partners.

Interestingly, even HR managers were not fully in favour of the new rights, with just under half stating that they would be unlikely to use shared parental leave.

The Government estimated that 285,000 couples would be eligible for shared parental leave, with an anticipated take-up of between 2% and 8%. On the basis of the research, it seems that even these low predictions were incorrect.

So, a huge amount of HR professionals’ time has gone into the implementation of this legislation, which would appear to have benefited in the region of fewer than 3,000 couples so far.

So, what is the Government going to do about it? Is it going to backtrack from complex legislation of this type and acknowledge that, without enhanced pay, shared parental leave take-up is likely to remain low?

Oh no. By the end of June, the Government plans to publish a consultation on another piece of family-friendly legislation – the extension of shared parental leave to grandparents, with a proposed implementation date of 2018.

If you agree with one of the employers who responded to the survey that the shared parental leave legislation is “possibly the worst drafted employment legislation of the last 40 years”, then you will not relish the thought of picking through another migraine-inducing set of regulations which attempt to define the term “grandparent” and to set out a process whereby yet another set of employees becomes embroiled in couples’ childcare arrangements.

But of course, HR professionals have nothing better to do with their time, have they?

If you would like to discuss any issues raised in this article, we have specific employment law expertise in advising in this area. For further advice, please contact Louise Connacher.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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