SPL comes into effect in April, but Slater and Gordon found 44% of SMEs are worried about how the regulations will impact their business.
Only 14% said they “fully supported” the new regulations as a positive change for business.
Half (50%) said they worried about the time and cost required to hire staff to cover those who take leave. Four in 10 (42%) worried staff without children would be resentful, 36% thought absence would jeopardise their business and 28% had concerns it would negatively impact on staff morale.
The firm also found one in five of the 500 SME business leaders surveyed said they were “putting off” preparing for SPL until an employee asked for it. That is despite one in five saying they had already had requests from employees.
Slater and Gordon employment lawyer Jim Lister urged employers to plan ahead. He said a lot of concerns would be “alleviated” if processes are in place as early as possible.
He said: “Businesses are not yet convinced that shared parental leave is a positive. But these changes are coming, and they present an opportunity for progressive businesses to integrate shared parental leave into the wider benefits package.
“I am confident that if the change is welcomed at the top of organisations and appropriate processes are put in place straight away, businesses can differentiate themselves positively in the eyes of their employees.”
Lister added that culture is key. “Small businesses should get advice now to make sure they do not create a culture where men may feel nervous to take up the leave,” he said. “Bosses have a very important role to play in promoting and normalising shared parental leave.”