Kate Brooks
Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services
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Date Published:11 Mar 2016 Last Updated:10 Apr 2021

Has the impact of Shared Parental Leave been significant?

Employment Law Advice

Has the impact of Shared Parental Leave been significant?

On 5 April 2015 the new Shared Parental Leave regime came into force which essentially enables eligible parents who to share the usual maternity leave or adoption leave between them, save for the first 2 weeks of the mother’s maternity leave which she is still by law required to take. The government have published new guidance on the new regime here.

The idea behind the new regime was to adopt a flexible approach assist parents in continuing their careers while allowing both of them to play a part in caring for their new-born baby. Under the new regime parents are able to take either a single period of leave or up to three separate periods of leave. This would enable parents to return to work for busy periods, for example, or to assist on a project for a duration of time. Employers may also agree to parents taking more than three separate periods, although there is no obligation on them to do so and it may prove to be too complicated or difficult for them to arrange this.

Prior to the regime coming into force there has been a lot of debate about whether the regime would be revolutionary, given its new and flexible approach. BBC news interviewed several organisations who were fearful that the regime would prove to be just an additional burden for employers. Many people were also sceptical as to whether there would be much uptake of Shared Parental Leave and thought that its impact may be very minimal with as few as 0.6% of parents taking advantage of it. There were also discussions regarding the difficulties employers may face in facilitating the leave and the potential headaches that could arise. The new regime has been in force for over a month now and we feel it is time to assess the initial impact this new and complex type of leave has had for employers.

Uptake of Shared Parental Leave

We haven’t seen a significant rush of interest in shared parental leave but it is more than likely to increase in popularity as time progresses and more people become aware of the leave and realise its benefits.

As a firm we have been focussing on ensuring that employers are fully aware of their obligations under the regime and the new rights employees have. We have found that many employers have been updating their Staff Handbooks and Policies in order to reflect the new change. The advantage of this approach is that it is transparent and employers will have a relevant policy in place with steps that need to be taken for parents to take the leave. Policies also help to ensure that any applications for shared parental leave are dealt with in a reasonable and consistent manner.

If you would like some help updating your policies or need some advice as to how to deal with employees’ applications for shared parental leave, please contact Kate Brooks on kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk or 01202 525333 and she will be able to assist you further.