Part 1: Shared Parental Leave - What Dads need to Know!

With Father’s Day just around the corner, we focus on Shared Parental Leave, and the impact it has had on men in comparison to women. Although the policy was initially designed to encourage fathers to take more time off with their children, recent studies have shown that only a small percentage of men are utilising this right.

In Part 1 of our Shared Parental Leave series, we take a look at how widespread gender stereotypes and employers are failing working fathers, and what steps must be taken to address and amend the issue.

How Shared Parental Leave Works

The policy was introduced two years ago and gives parents the right to split up to 52 weeks of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) between them, as well as up to 39 weeks of statutory shared parental pay.

To qualify, the mother or adopter must be entitled to some form of maternity or adoption entitlement, have given notice to curtail it and must share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the named partner. For a parent to be eligible to take Shared Parental Leave they must be an employee and they must pass the continuity of employment test. In turn, the other parent in the family must meet the employment and earnings test.

Continuity of employment test: the person must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the child is due (or at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child or adoption) and is still employed in the first week that Shared Parental Leave is to be taken.

Employment and earnings test: the person must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Where both parents satisfy these tests they will both be able to share the leave. However, a family can still use Shared Parental Leave even when only one parent actually meets the eligibility criteria. For example, a self-employed parent will not be entitled to take Shared Parental Leave but they could still pass the employment and earnings test allowing the other parent in the family to qualify.

Not enough men take advantage of the policy

Research from Working Families suggests that 48 percent of fathers would not take up their right to parental leave – a third because they could not afford to. Of the 52 percent of the more than 300 fathers who responded to the survey, many said they wanted to spend time bonding with their child and share care with their partner.

“Families are unlikely to make use of SPL unless it makes financial sense for them to do so. The government should consider equalising statutory maternity pay and shared parental pay to prevent SPL being a second-class option and encourage more fathers to use it,” says Sarah Jackson, the chief executive of Working Families. “Employers going beyond the minimum pay for SPL would also make it a more realistic option for more families.”

Shared parental leave came into force on 5 April 2015. It was designed to enable fathers to play a bigger role than ever before, according to the government. The government expected a low take-up of 2-8 percent but research last year suggested a tiny proportion of men were opting to take S PL, with only 1 percent having taken it so far.

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