Guest blog by Stephen Warnham, Jobs Expert at Totaljobs
While the parents of the new royal baby might be exempt from a traditional 9-5 working lifestyle, having their first-born child will still have an impact on Prince Harry’s ability to fulfil his royal duties. However, a member of the royal family is in a better position than other working parents to spend time with their baby. It’s interesting that Harry has opted to take just two weeks of paternity leave, as did his brother William, rather than splitting the time off equally with Meghan.
For the rest of us, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) legislation from the government means that parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them the first year after their child is born. This has been available since 2015 but the take-up has been staggeringly low, with just 9,200 new parents using it – a mere one per cent of those eligible. Many people don’t take advantage of SPL simply because they can’t afford it – a scenario that doesn’t affect the royals. The government pays just £145 a week – any more is at employers’ discretion. The way SPL is currently structured means that it’s unlikely to see a significant rise in popularity any time soon.
However, some companies – from drinks giant Diageo through to O2 and Aviva – are taking big steps in the right direction to help balance the parenting scales. In fact, the ability for both parents to spend time with their newborn has never been better – and there are many ways employers can help new parents enjoy more of their child’s first year.
While SPL in its current guise might not be feasible for many parents, workers shouldn’t be afraid to speak to their boss about their options. Having a baby is a life-changing event and maintaining a high-pressure job alongside this can lead to heightened stress – it’s important that employers help staff to manage their workload and allow new parents time for themselves.
Ultimately, successfully juggling being a new parent and an ongoing workload is about having open conversations with your boss, understanding the financial implications and remembering what matters to you most. Harry might only be taking two weeks off, but we still don’t know how long Meghan will take for maternity leave and how balanced their approach to parenting will be. UK businesses should offer their support to new parents in whatever way they can, whether that’s in the form of SPL or flexible working arrangements. In doing so, employers will maintain a productive and diverse workforce.