A scheme for sharing parental leave and pay following the birth or adoption of a child was introduced in England and Wales in April 2015.
It allows parents to share between them up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay during the first year of their child’s birth or adoption (subject to various eligibility criteria). Parents can take the leave at the same time, or independently of each other, and in one block or several small blocks.
Shared Parental Leave (“SPL”) offers great potential for promoting gender equality in the workplace and challenging gender stereotypes regarding childcare responsibilities.
However, one year after its introduction, a survey by My Family Care suggests that the use of SPL is low. The study surveyed 200 employers and over 1000 parents (similar numbers of men and women), and found that 4 out of 10 employers had not seen a single male employee take advantage of SPL so far. Only 1 out of 20 employers reported more than a 1% use of SPL by all male employees (although, due to the eligibility criteria, not all male employees would have been eligible for SPL). On a more positive note, out of those individual respondents who had a baby or adopted a child during the last year, 1 in 3 men and 1 in 5 women had utilized SPL.
The survey results show that, in principle, men are as interested as women in taking SPL. Around 30% of the men and women surveyed who already had children or who were looking to have children in the future said it was “very likely” that they would take SPL. As to whether it is in fact taken, a number of key factors come into play:
As for the future, the views of the respondents surveyed were split. Roughly half of the respondents suggested that SPL will become “more of a well-used and “normal” option over time,” while the other half believe that “usage of SPL will remain low, a minority choice”. Only time will tell.