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The Shared Parental Leave Debate

It's been a busy week, with interviews and press releases, now that Shared Parental Leave has finally arrived. But it's made me think - will many people actually benefit?

10/04/2015

 

The age of the stay-at-home dad is upon us. Or is it? This week saw the launch of Shared Parental Leave, which introduces new laws allowing working fathers and mothers to share 12 months of time off after their child is born.

There has been a lot of press coverage in the last couple of days about this. And here at our HQ, where we champion the rights of working parents, it was a busy time, with the press hounding us for comments.

Does my opinion count?

I say "us" but there was a distinct lack of demand for my opinion, which is probably no bad thing. I'm not generally very good at giving interviews.
Apparently I have a face that suits radio and a voice that is best heard with the mute button switched on.

On the other hand, my rather better looking, and softly spoken, business partners are in constant demand. Our walls in the office are covered in framed PR photos of the boys giving interviews. If you look really carefully, you might spot a blurry face in the background. That's me, before they learnt how to photoshop me out.

Shared Parental Leave - a complicated process

To be honest, I'm quite glad I didn't get asked about SPL (as it's now being called, hashtag optional). For one thing, I'm totally confused about how you go about requesting SPL, which is worrying as I'm a lawyer and expected to advise on this process.

I'm not sure the government could have made it more complicated. Perhaps that was intentional. Frankly, if you can work out the rules around giving notice, the time periods and the negotiations you have to enter into with your employers, you deserve the time off!

Who will take up the offer?

But I'm also not convinced that SPL will make a blind bit of difference to how mums take maternity leave. Even the early surveys suggest that the take up will be minimal, mainly due to the lack of financial incentives on offer.

According to a new Benchmark Survey by Working Mums and My Family Care, only 30% of people would even consider taking up their new rights to time off.

The numbers change significantly if more money was on offer. In fact, 80 per cent said they would change their decision if their company paid more than the statutory amount. But that puts a financial burden on companies, with no help from the government to cover those costs.

Who will benefit?

But perhaps my indifference to the new law is down to the fact that I'm too old to benefit from it (as some kind soul pointed out to me recently). This is something for the younger generation. But, is it a generation where the majority of mums earn more than the dads, making it a viable option to split the maternity leave? The answer unfortunately is no.

I asked my husband whether he would have taken up the offer of SPL had it been around when our boys were born. "Only if I could have hired an attractive wet nurse" was his response. Words like "misogynist" and "dark ages" spring to mind. Not quite the person the government was looking to target then...

Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director

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