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Applications open for shared parental leave

Prospective parents can apply for shared parental leave from today (Monday 1 December).

Anyone whose child is due on or after 5 April 2015 will be eligible for the new benefit, which means parents are able to split 52 weeks of parental leave evenly if they wish. The leave can be taken in up to three separate blocks.

CBI director for employment and skills Neil Carberry said the new flexibility will allow fathers to "play a stronger role in their child's development".

"Businesses support the new scheme because it encourages greater diversity in the workplace and allows women to return to work earlier if they want to – avoiding a loss of key business skills," he said.

He added that "good guidance" for employees will be essential for the new system to be embedded effectively.

Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) chief executive Charles Elvin warned that the new legislation will pose "practical challenges" for managers, especially within small businesses.

"But it’s a crucial step towards enabling more women to progress into senior roles, making it a huge enabler of equality in the workplace," he continued.

“If organisations are serious about realising the benefits of a gender diverse senior team and meeting impending government targets for more balanced boards, this introduction of shared leave is a crucial step towards that.”

Norton Rose Fulbright senior associate Lauren Pullen-Stanley warned that previous research suggests the impact on parenting may not be seen straight away.

“Responses to our survey earlier in the year revealed that it may be some time before the proposals on shared parental leave lead to any practical change in the way that childcare responsibilities are divided in the UK," she said.

"Key stumbling blocks were low levels of pay during leave and entrenched cultural resistance to men taking an active role in childcare. 89% of respondents among employers predicted a low level of take up”.