Shared Parental Leave to become more popular

Employers should prepare themselves for more staff taking interest in Shared Parental Leave (SPL), according to a Winckworth Sherwood report

While only 7% of employees with children have taken up Shared Parental Leave so far, 38% of those planning to have further children intend to do so when they have their next child.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay were introduced in 2015 with the aim of giving parents a more flexible way to take leave and divide care during the first year after birth.

Findings from Shifting attitudes to flexible working and childcare for working parents revealed the results of exclusive YouGov research among employees and HR decision-makers.

Louise Lawrence, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood, said: “As societal norms change and fathers feel more able to request time off families may decide they want to share responsibilities more equally.

“Pay is clearly important and if employers decide to match [SPL pay to] their enhanced maternity pay we expect to see more take-up of Shared Parental Leave. Increasingly, both parents may seek extended time away from work and employers should plan for this eventuality.”

The report suggested flexible working options are important for employees to be able to combine work with family life. Twenty-three per cent of respondents with children under 18 work flexibly as part of their childcare arrangements, and 24% have family and friends helping with childcare.

Jana Javornik, associate professor of work and employment relations at Leeds University Business School, said the uptake of Shared Parental Leave very much depends on whether workers perceive it as available and acceptable behaviour.

“With the increasing number of role models and media attention it is likely that more and more couples will share leave, but only as long as the financial component allows equality and employers support an uptake.

“Otherwise fathers will continue to hide behind paid annual and sick leave instead,” said Javornik.

The report recommends an open dialogue and good communication both for those working flexibly and their managers, to make Shared Parental Leave work.

It also recommends employers implement a flexible working policy/procedure that gives examples of the types of arrangements that can be requested and ensures employees understand their rights and how to make a request, as well as what is expected of those working remotely or flexibly.

Winckworth Sherwood commissioned YouGov to interview 1,000 employees and 500 HR decision-makers in January 2020.