Use of shared parental leave falls 17% in a year
Only 11,200 couples applied to use the Shared Parental Leave Scheme in 2020/21*, a 17% fall on last year.
The scheme is still only being used by a tiny fraction of parents who are eligible, more than five years after it was introduced. It has struggled to attract couples ever since its launch in 2016.
Less than 2% of eligible couples used the scheme in the past year, based on the fact that 598,000 women took maternity leave in 2020/21. The take-up of the scheme for those eligible has fluctuated between 1% and 2% yearly ever since its launch.
The Shared Parental Leave scheme offers both new parents the opportunity to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them. The rate of pay is £151.20 per week, half the UK minimum wage for full-time employees.
Many parents are understandably reluctant for the primary earner to temporarily stop working and see their income fall to just over £600 per month. As the primary earner is often male, this has contributed to a low uptake of the scheme.
"Ever since it was first launched, the Shared Parental Leave Scheme has failed to attract enough new parents to use it. Very few couples believe that it provides enough money to justify using it."
If the scheme boosted its pay rates, it could serve to help eliminate the gender pay gap. This would incentivise more couples to utilise the scheme and allow fathers to take on a greater share of childcare responsibilities. This would also make it easier for women to return to the workplace more quickly. As a result, fewer women would be adversely impacted by slower career progression after taking maternity leave.
* Year end 31 March 2021
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