Shared Parental Leave is now law, enabling employees who have babies due on or after 5th April 2015 to share up to one year’s leave. The law represents a major shift in tradition, with mothers now able to end their maternity leave and pay, sharing their remaining parental leave with their partner.
- Shared Parental Leave become law on 1st December 2014 and will apply to parents/adopters whose baby is due to be born on or after 5th April 2015.
- Shared Parental Leave will allow mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed for adoption.
- It is intended to provide parents increased childcare flexibility in the first year following birth.
Unsurprisingly a number of employers have already drafted guidelines or made amendments to their existing policies covering parental leave. However, many of not been so quick to react, with 21% of HR leaders admitting they are not ready to manage the requirements of shared parental leave, possibly on account of the large number of HR leaders who state they are not anticipating a big employee take up over the next 12 months.
How businesses communicate the new Shared Parental Leave regulations may be at fault for this lack of interest, with 11% of employees claiming not to have heard about the changes. Alternatively, HR leaders’ confidence could be backed by a general malaise in confidence across the workforce when it comes to asking for additional leave or changes in their hours. It is reported that 42% of workers feel uncomfortable about approaching their bosses with requests for flexible time.
It is discomfort that has no correlation with need. Research carried out by the CBI revealed 38% of British working parents report finding it more ‘difficult’ to balance their work and family/home lives, with almost identical results for both men and women. With our ever increasingly busy working lives, managing the work/life balance is difficult for many, possibly causing strain on their ability to carry out their job to maximum effect.
Employers must accept that working parents will always put family considerations ahead of work – Mumsnet CEO, Justine Roberts, recently called on employers to come to terms with the notion that working parents will always put family considerations ahead of work. Warning that it is only once this truth is accepted will an employer be able to forge better relationships with working families. Ignoring employees’ responsibilities outside of work will only serve to diminish the reciprocity between both employer and employee.
It is hoped that strong initiatives like Shared Parental Leave will help improve employees’ ability to manage their work/life balance, reduce the parental guilt associated with inflexible hours, and, ultimately, help foster a solid partnership between employer and employee.