More needs to be done to change out-dated cultural perceptions and raise awareness about how the new legislation could benefit families and those running businesses in the vital first year of becoming a parent.

The new SPL (Shared Parental Leave) law is still not being used to its full extent by many families. SPL provides both parents with the opportunity to consider the best arrangement to care for their child during the child’s first year. It gives mothers and fathers the right to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after the birth or adaption of their child.

The new legislation allows new parents to have more flexibility with childcare, whether they are running their own business – allowing the mother to go back to work or to simply give fathers the chance to share in the leave and spend more time with their child – something that was previously out of their control.

The Government had predicted the take up to be between 2-8% in the first year, and this simply has not happened. More needs to be done to change out-dated perceptions that parental leave is just for mothers. The take up has been underwhelming and my concern after seeing the figures is that there is perceptions held by fathers that if they choose to use the new shared parental leave they may be perceived negatively at work. It is obvious that some of key issues still need to be addressed.

After a mother’s mandatory two–week maternity leave has ended, SPL allows parents to share up to 50 weeks leave between them. They could, for example, take 25 weeks off together, or take it in turns, while receiving 37 weeks of statutory shared parental pay between them, of £139.58 a week or £140.98 from 2 April 2017, or 90% of earnings, whichever is lower, although some employers may offer enhanced earnings.

A fuller picture of SPL should be available in 2018 when the Government plans to report in detail on its impact.

For further information, contact Jayne Harrison or Emma Tegerdine in our employment team.