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The modern family friendly policy

By: Helen Busfield, HR Adviser Date: 5 September 2017
Category: Article,HR

Shared parental leave (SPL) was introduced in April 2015 to help alleviate a number of issues new parents face, while improving gender equality and reducing the gender pay gap. SPL was designed to enable mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to share statutory leave and pay. They can decide how and when they wish to share the entitlement of 50 weeks leave, either separately or together. Instead of the traditional 52 weeks of maternity leave and two weeks of paternity leave. Eligible employees receive statutory shared parental pay (up to a maximum of 37 weeks) at the rate of 90% of an employees average weekly earnings or at the flat rate of £140.98 (whichever is lowest) during the 39 weeks paid period.

However, research has shown there has been little uptake on the policy to date. It is thought there could be several factors affecting new parents choosing SPL. These factors include a lack of financial security, for example, where the father is the main breadwinner, many families can’t afford to take a reduction in income during their leave. While mothers are often reluctant to give up their Statutory Maternity entitlements. The new policy is not fully embedded into our culture, and it is feared that if a father takes SPL they are less likely to get a promotion over one who doesn’t. Some new parents may lack awareness of the policy, which is partially caused by employers not actively promoting SPL to their staff.

Who qualifies?
There are a number of factors that are taken into account to determine if an employee qualifies for SPL.
1) they must share responsibility for the child with:
  • their husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter
  • the child’s other parent
  • their partner (if the child lives with both partners)

2) the employee or their partner must be eligible for maternity pay or leave, adoption pay or leave or maternity allowance.

3) The employee must have been employed continuously (by the same employer) for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or by the date they are matched with an adopted child). They must then stay with the same employer whilst taking the SPL.

4) During the 66 weeks before the week the baby’s due (or the week they are matched with an adopted child) the employee’s partner must have been working for at least 26 weeks and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 a week in 13 of the 66 weeks. This can be as an employee, worker or self-employed person.
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. Your partner doesn’t have to be working at the date of birth or when you start SPL.

What organisations can do to make implementation efficient
All businesses must comply with legislation and offer SPL to their employees, but there is more that can be done to increase the uptake.

Any policy needs to be fair and consistent, reflecting the company values. Once procedures have been agreed it needs to be communicated effectively across the organisation and managers given appropriate training. Involving employees throughout the implementation phase will help improve employee engagement of the new policy and therefore more likely to choose it as an option.

Record keeping
Records must be kept for three years and cumulative weeks of SPL should be recorded to avoid any individual going over their entitlement. It is important the administration process is completed in line with legislation to be kept manageable, showing employees that you are supporting their request of SPL.

For further queries relating to this policy or HR advice, please contact our HR consultancy team on 01603 663300.
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