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News & Knowledge

UK: The Future of Shared Parental Leave

11th October 2016
Lester Aldridge LLP (United Kingdom)

Shared Parental Leave (SPL), introduced by the UK Government in 2015, was a step towards more flexible, family-friendly workplaces and set out as a way of encouraging more fathers and partners to play a greater caring role in their child’s first year. MSI's UK South Coast law member Lester Aldridge provides further insight on this subject matter.

According to recent news reports, only a small majority of fathers/partners are taking up the new scheme to share their wife or partner’s leave from work despite the government’s early predictions.

Catharine Geddes, Partner at the South Coast’s leading full-service law firm, Lester Aldridge within its Employment team, commented: “The new leave allows both parents to share the first year’s leave and moves away from the traditional ideology that mum stays at home with the baby. Whilst the low uptake of shared parental leave may simply be a slow start to the still relatively new regulations, it is worth remembering the uptake was also low in the old system of additional paternity leave (which was replaced by the new shared parental leave regulations); meaning more may need to be done to change mind-sets before a more flexible system of working parents can be achieved. It seems a lot of fathers/partners are simply continuing to take their one or two weeks’ paternity leave combined with annual leave at the moment, which also seemed to be the case during the old system of additional paternity leave”.

“Even if it is just a slow start, it’s unlikely to be helped by the pay received during shared parental leave compared to maternity leave. Unfortunately, with more employers offering enhanced maternity pay but only statutory shared parental pay, it seems inevitable many families will continue to opt for the traditional maternity leave route, as they simply cannot afford to take shared parental leave. It has been suggested that employers that offer enhanced shared parental pay are twice as likely to receive shared parental leave requests than employers only offering statutory pay”.

“There’s also the risk that enhancing maternity pay but paying only statutory shared parental pay could be discriminatory towards men and although the Government’s guidance suggests there is no legal obligation to offer enhanced shared parental pay, the positions of men on shared parental leave and women on maternity leave are now so similar it is likely this is a question the courts will be determining in the near future, once the position is challenged.”

About Lester Aldridge LLP - Bournemouth

Lester Aldridge is a full service law firm, advising commercial organisations and private individuals on a regional, national and international scale, from offices in Southampton and Bournemouth.

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