Image via wallfon.com
I have previously blogged about shared parental leave in the UK, the post is available here. Today marks one year since new legislation around shared parental leave was introduced in the UK.
Reports today suggest the take up of shared parental leave (SPL) has been very small, with only 1 in 100 men taking up the opportunity to split parental leave with their partners. Research around SPL suggests that finance remains a constraint for couples to split their leave, which can be contrasted with nordic countries who backfill earnings whilst men (and women) are on leave meaning that being at home with children is acceptable, and affordable.
There is however also seen to be lack of awareness around SPL in the UK. Discussion of SPL on BBC Breakfast today noted the complexity of the legislation around SPL, including needing to have broached it with employers before the birth of the child. Often parents, particularly first time parents, don’t know how they will feel about being at home with their children until they arrive, women don’t know if they will miss their working lives more or less than they anticipated, men don’t know that they will want to be at home raising their children.
Creating barriers, both financial and in terms of complexity of the system, will not help move forward shared parenting. Only by making the system feel equitable and straightforward, and normalised within the workplace, will SPL bed in within the UK as it has within other countries. If we are committed to SPL then we need to demonstrate that commitment through resources, simplification of the process, and workplaces having proactive conversations with the employees about their parental leave options.
Edit: A later clarification around the validity of figures for men taking shared parental leave was posted by the Guardian here. The wider points of how many men know about shared parental leave, and the culture that exists around parenting and men’s roles within that are however still relevant even if the information on which we can base assessments is even more scarce than previously believed.