Just 8,700 new parents claimed shared parental leave in the last year
- Partly due to the cultural stigma of taking time off work, as pace of change accelerates
Just 8,700 new parents took advantage of the Shared Parental Leave system in 2016/17* making up less than 1% of the number of parents eligible, according to research by EMW, the commercial law firm.
The Shared Parental Leave system allows both new parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them, in place of maternity pay.
The cultural stigma of men taking lengthy amounts of time off work to care for their children could be a key reason for the low number of new parents taking advantage of the Shared Parental Payment programme.
In many cases new parents, particularly fathers, could be concerned about the impact on their career if they take lengthy time off. The fast pace of change in the workplace could mean that staff feel they can fall behind in their career just by taking a few months off.
In addition, increased financial pressures of new parenthood could be a deterrent for some new parents against taking ‘too much’ time off. Financial stability is all-important with a new baby, and some parents may not feel they can afford to take the risk of asking for Shared Parental Leave.
The Shared Parental pay scheme pays out 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings. This step down in income could be a deterrent against claiming, as many new parents may find they need at least one or both of their full salaries.
EMW adds that the Shared Parental Leave programme only came into force for children born in April 2015 onwards - therefore many new parents may still be unaware of how the system works.
In addition, there could be other, more effective ways to help businesses provide family friendly policies, such as tax breaks for childcare provisions, in-work creches, and flexible working.
Jon Taylor, Principal at EMW, comments: “Demand for the Shared Parental Leave system remains very low - families could be missing out by not embracing the system.”
“Many new parents are unclear how the system will work for their families and careers. Fathers in particular could be concerned about coming across as less committed to their job if they ask for greater flexibility, deterring them from looking into it.”
“Employers must take a proactive approach towards leave for new parents – not only for mothers, but fathers too. If an employer is seen as sympathetic to the needs of new parents, they are more likely to enjoy retention of staff.”