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Lack of clarity affecting SPL uptake

Complex legislation and lack of awareness is stopping parents from taking Shared Parental Leave

A new study from workingmums.co.uk shows that one of the biggest reasons for not taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is financial concerns, with only 37% of the 2,300 working mothers surveyed stating that they would consider taking it and 43% of those who would, saying that it made no financial sense. However 59% said that enhancing Shared Parental Pay would not impact their decision.

Further findings reveal 17% of respondents didn't want to share their leave, 12% cited worries of the father's career, 11% didn't know enough about SPL and 5% said legislation was too complex.

“It’s important to remember that this is a survey of working mothers, not mothers and fathers," commented Julia Waltham, head of policy and campaigns at Working Families."

What it is perhaps highlighting, therefore, is varying degrees of reluctance among some working mothers to share their maternity leave.

“But it’s vital not to underestimate the financial considerations at play; clearly families are unlikely to make use of the scheme unless it makes financial sense for them to do so. This is something that should be at the forefront of the government’s thinking when they review the SPL next year.

Waltham stated that in the long term what fathers needed was a properly paid, standalone period of leave, to make caring for their child in those early days a realistic option for more fathers.

Founder of workingmums.co.uk Gillian Nissim, said it was disappointing to see how low SPL takeup had been.

"Part of the problem is no doubt the complexity of the legislation and lack of awareness. Finances clearly play a big role and generally there are concerns about the way the legislation is framed. At the moment this is what we have to work with though and at the heart of the legislation is open, honest conversations between parents about what is best for every member of the family and what impact any decisions they take in the first months of their baby's life might have in the future.

Daddilife founder Han-Son Lee said it was clear there were still many barriers to overcome to improve uptake.

"Finances will always be a challenge for many, but what's more striking from these latest figures is the lack of real conversation that's happening around it."

The findings have been released to mark the launch of a series of videos produced through a partnership between workingmums.co.uk and Daddilife, that show couples in conversation about SPL and the challenges they faced in making decisions about parental leave.

Lee said: "Though the policy won't always be right for everyone, what's been truly encouraging from our parents videos is how different types of discussions have lead to more quality time that parents often cry out for more of. Hopefully more can have the type of discussions about SPL that really get each other thinking about it fully.”