When shared parental leave was introduced in 2015, it was considered a hug success in combating archaic family norms that force the mother to stay at home with children. Despite being introduced almost three years ago, the percentage of parents taking shared parental leave is only at 2%, with half of the general public unaware the option exists.
According to the Department for Business, 285,000 couples are eligible every year for the leave, but don’t take it because of a lack of awareness, cultural barriers and potential financial penalties. However, Isabel Mohan thinks it's all down to the gender pay gap, find out why here.
Shared parental leave allows parents to share 50 weeks of leave, 37 of which are paid, either separately of together for up to six months. The current rate of pay is £140.98 per week, or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower.
There remains a lot of unnecessary stigma around the way parents take leave, whether it’s disbelief when fathers choose to take the time or a patronising encouragement when they do what we should really expect of any parent – to take time off to bond with their child. With mothers stigmatised for taking too much leave or not enough, it really seems like parents can’t win when it comes to taking time off work. Shared parental leave was supposed to reduce those stereotypes, and unburden one parent from taking the majority of child care.
Now, the government has promised to spend £1.5m to publicise the option, starting a campaign called ‘share the joy’ which will advertise online and on billboards. Business minister, Andrew Griffiths, said the policy means fathers don’t have to miss ‘their baby's first step, word or giggle’.
It comes during a push toward flexible working from employees and businesses alike, Griffiths continued:
‘Employers can reap the benefits too. We know that flexibility in work is proven to create happier, more loyal and more productive workforces,’
However, the real heart of the problem tends to be financial. More than a third of fathers said they wouldn’t use the scheme because they couldn’t afford to, according to Working Families chief executive Sarah Jackson. In response to this, Jackson is calling for employers to go beyond the minimum pay for SPL if they can afford to. She said:
‘If the Government is serious about equality at work and tackling the gender pay gap, it should consider also introducing a properly paid, standalone period of extended paternity leave for fathers.’
The scheme will be formally evaluated later this year, with hopes the publicity will raise awareness and reduce cultural barriers that prevent men from taking time off out of fear they’ll be seen as less committed.
Who is eligible for shared parental leave?
You must share responsibility for the child with either your husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter, the child’s other parent of your partner if they live with you and the child. One of you must be eligible for maternity pay or leave, adoption pay or leave, of Maternity Allowance.
The further requirements include being employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or by the date you’re matched with your adopted child). You must stay with the same employer while you take the leave.
During the 66 weeks before the baby’s due, or the week you’re matched with your adopted child, your partner must also have been working for at least 26 weeks (although not in a row) and have earned at least £390 in total in 13 of the 66 weeks (these still do not need to be in a row so you can add up the highest paying weeks).
All of these apply whether you’re an employee, worker of self-employed and your partner doesn’t have to be working at the date of birth or when you started the leave or Statutory Shared Parental Pay. You can find out more about it here.
Check out Blake Lively's maternity style...
Red carpet fashion is Blake's strong suite, and this black and white dress by Carolina Herrera (complete with floral detailing and semi-sheer skirt) doesn't disappoint (June 2016)