Shakira’s Blog: Tackling shared parental leave

Shakira Joyner, HR Consultant from hchr Limited shares her blog with us:

In a nutshell, the new right is intended to give working parents the opportunity to share leave and pay more flexibly. Under the new system of leave, parents can take up to 52 weeks between them, with the option of interspersing periods of work with periods of leave. It will also be possible for parents to take leave at the same time as each other. Additional paternity leave and additional statutory paternity pay will be abolished (after a transitional period) once shared parental leave has been introduced.

Why the change?

Shared Parental Leave represents a brand new concept that challenges some of society’s deep- rooted cultural and social norms about caring roles. It allows both parents to decide what care arrangements suit their circumstances best and is a move away from an assumption that mothers will automatically be the parent taking leave from work in order to take on the caring role.

Open discussions between parents-to-be and their employers will be crucial to success. There is a delicate balance to be struck between the required flexibility of parents and the certainty necessary for employers to support parents. Businesses will need to plan ahead to cover periods of leave, and return to work, whether this is in single blocks or an agreed pattern.

However, challenges aside, there are business benefits of shared parental leave, within this cultural shift there are positives that should not be lost sight of.

One of the major opportunities for shared parental leave will be some mums’ returning to the workplace sooner, bringing their skills and expertise back with them and therefore enabling businesses to retain sought after female talent for longer.

Implemented in the right way, with support for businesses and parents alike, shared parental leave could prove to be a useful tool to shifting the gender imbalance in industries such as manufacturing. For these businesses, shared parental leave may be an opportunity to provide support to parents rather than just mothers in the workforce, and make parental leave more gender neutral.
The new right is a chance to review a business’s entire offering for working parents, to ensure policies support business objectives and to give the business an advantage over its competitors in attracting and retaining staff.

Like any new employment right, there is the risk that the introduction of Shared Parental Leave might lead to conflict at work, if not handled well. Multiple requests, poor timing and planning could indeed lead to chaos. To avoid this, employers need to promote early discussions, so that leave requests can be planned in good time, which avoids misunderstandings and surprises.

Of course no blog on employment law would be complete without a reference to a policy. So here it is: employers would be well advised to have a policy in place setting out employees’ entitlements to Shared Parental Leave and any notice requirements etc. that apply, as well as how employers will approach requests for discontinuous leave. The policy should include details on the eligibility criteria, the entitlement available for eligible employees and what they should do to invoke the eligibility.

Shakira Joyner LLb MSc HRM MCIPD, hchr Employment Consultants

Author: Editor

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