The reforms are a very welcome development. It is truly encouraging to see the government acknowledging the importance of supporting parents to make genuinely free choices about their work and family lives.
By removing one of the key barriers to fathers playing a full and equal part in family life, the reforms will both support more new fathers to be involved in caring for their child, and give mothers more choice as to when, and if, they return to work after the birth or adoption of a child.
Embracing shared parental leave is undoubtedly a good thing for employers. Not only will it lead to improved employee retention, reducing the necessity for recruitment and the associated costs, but supporting new parents allows businesses to keep talented staff who will make a positive contribution to a business over a number of years.
Ensuring that employees who have a new child have a good experience of parental leave and returning to work is one way employers can demonstrate commitment to their employees’ wellbeing and earn long-term loyalty.
The workplace itself benefits from the improved motivation and wellbeing among employees with young children who are confident about both working and meeting their family commitments.
There are a number of issues to address, and a range of areas where more work is required, but, as a first step, shared parental leave is, at the very least, a welcome move in the right direction.
Ellen Broome is director of policy, research and communications at the Family and Childcare Trust