The number of parents taking up the option of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) remains very low.
SPL allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay with their partner.
Government figures show that 285,000 couples are eligible to take shared parental leave every year and that around 49% have heard of shared parental leave, but only 8% claim to know a lot about the policy. Recent figures show that in the last year just 9,200 parents used the scheme. As a result of this the government launched a campaign encouraging increased uptake earlier this year.
Suggested reasons for the lack of interest include the complexity of the forms and a lack of knowledge of the right, gender pay gaps which make the male partner more likely to be the higher earner, SPL is dependent on the mother curtailing some of her leave and the longstanding culture of the mother being the primary carer.
What other parental leave rights exist?
Parental leave: all parents have the right to take up to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave per child up to the child’s eighteenth birthday for the purpose of caring for a child. The leave must be taken in blocks of one week.
Emergency time off for dependants: all employees have the right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to care for a dependant in an emergency. This covers events like the dependant falling ill, giving birth or being injured; it also covers unexpected breakdowns in childcare. It does not cover planned time off and what amounts to a ‘reasonable amount of time off’ will depend in each case. The guidance states that this will generally be no longer than one or two days.
More generally, all employees with more than 26 weeks’ service are entitled to make a flexible working request: this can be a request to change their hours, to work from home or a change to part time hours. If the change is agreed then the contract is changed on a permanent basis.
Whilst the government has discussed the introduction of a grandparental leave scheme, these plans are currently on hold.