16th May 2018
Shared parental leave has been an option in the UK since April 2015. But, it seems to have gone under the radar, with the latest statistics from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing that only 2% of eligible couples have taken advantage of this government scheme. It sounds like a great idea, both parents can spend quality time with their newborn, so why is it being overlooked?
Shared Parental Leave and Gender Roles
Traditionally it has always been the mother that takes maternity leave she is the one to carry the baby, gives birth and the one to take time out from work. It has been this way for a long time, and sometimes traditions are hard to break. Are men still seen as the breadwinner or does it make financial sense to stick with ‘maternity leave’? Traditional values could be playing a part in this, but for such a low take-up it seems that wider factors may be at play.
Shared parental leave may look like a great option, but financially it favours the mother. More often than not they are entitled to an enhanced maternity pay, and in a majority of cases the father is not which means they receive the statutory government pay of £140.98 per week (this is all based on individual company policies).
When couples look at their options, many are finding that it just isn’t financially viable for both parties to take time on statutory maternity leave, especially when the gender pay gap analysis has found that men will typically earn more than their spouse. So while on paper man might not appear to be taking time with the family over these first months, the reality might be that taking this time as paid holiday makes better financial sense at a time where money is at a premium.
The Changing Workplace
The idea of taking time out of work for most people is a scary thought, so much can change in such a small amount of time especially in SMEs. Businesses grow, people develop and being left behind due to parental leave can be an intimidating idea. SMEs could certainly feel the effect of shared parental leave, they have smaller teams with prominent job roles, and individuals they rely upon daily.
However, shared parental leave can also give both parents the chance to spend time with their newborn, without one half of them having to take a prolonged period away from work. This could mean workers feel less out of touch with their roles when they return, allowing them to feel confident and keep developing with the company.
‘Share the joy’ is a new campaign from the Government to encourage parents that shared parental leave is the perfect chance for both new parents to enjoy their baby. Something is stopping new parents, it may be down to tradition, finance, work worries or even confusion of eligibility. With that in mind, does more need to be done and is shared parental leave another way of creating a perfect work/life balance which could ultimately lead to a happier workplace.
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