Shared parental leave (SPL) is just around the corner, so employers must get ready.
Under the new rules, eligible women will be able to curtail their right to maternity leave and enable their partner to take shared parental leave. In this way, mums and dads, including those who are adopting, will, for the first time, be able to share up to 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ pay in their child’s first year.
Employers should already be geared up for dealing with employees who want to take advantage of the new rights. The first notices of curtailment of maternity leave from women, and of intention to take SPL from men, will have started hitting desks around 8 February.
The government and arbitration service Acas have issued guidance outlining employers’ responsibilities, which organisations should read, particularly those that consider SPL just another bureaucratic headache and feel challenged by the new flexibilities.
But, in the long term, employers should view the new rules as an opportunity to grasp and turn to their advantage. Just as many employers use enhanced maternity leave as a means of holding on to female talent, blue-chip employers, including the civil service, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Citi, have already pledged to enhance SPL for men as well as women.
Employers need to understand that parents’ attitudes about who should do what when a baby arrives have changed considerably over time, so if they are serious about attracting and retaining the best talent, they must ask themselves whether they can afford not to review and update their approach to working family support.
Jeremy Davies is head of policy at the Fatherhood Institute