United Kingdom

Parents confused and unclear about shared parental leave

June 2018

Working parents are still unclear about shared parental leave (SPL) criteria, despite the scheme being in place for over three years.

Under the scheme which was first introduced in April 2015, eligible couples are legally entitled to share up to 50 weeks of parental leave following the birth of their child. But a report published in May by the Behavioural Insights Team on behalf of the Government Equalities Office revealed that some parents mistakenly thought SPL was at the employer’s discretion rather than a legal entitlement.

The study raised concerns around the effectiveness of the SPL scheme, warning that women would end up taking on more childcare duties anyway, particularly as women tended to be lower earners and benefitted from enhanced maternity leave offering from their employer.

Take-up of the scheme has also been low. In February, the Department for Business admitted that despite 285,000 couples per year being eligible for SPL, actual take up was likely to be just 2 per cent. At the time, experts said the low take up was due to a variety of factors including lack of understanding, cultural barriers, and financial penalties.

According to Jeff Fox, principal at Aon, the scheme has been ‘challenging’ for organisations to administer which could explain low-key communication. Promotion amongst employers has also been ‘limited’ which has generally restricted awareness, he said.

In June last year, People Management revealed that fewer than 7,500 men had taken advantage of SPL in the 2016-17 tax year while a CIPD survey indicated that just over 20 per cent of HR professionals had been asked about SPL by their employees.

Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD told People Management: “Increasing awareness of SPL, how it works and what people are entitled to is a critical step in increasing take-up. HR has a key role to play here and needs to think creatively about communicating SPL to the workforce beyond having a formal policy.”

Fox added: “Ideally these arrangements need to be communicated as part of the overall employee proposition, organisations are starting to consider these arrangements as part of the wider benefits package, especially if they are enhanced from the statutory levels. It helps create a compelling place to work.”

Aon Consulting Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FP18/608