The current policy has been called “deeply flawed and chronically failing” and campaigners have insisted it needs to be replaced by a new system.
Shared parental leave is a policy which allows expecting parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.
However, campaigners have now warned that this policy is not working optimally, with under 10 per cent of eligible partners utilising this system.
As such, it has been suggested that the system should be reformed to include a “use it or lose it” period of paid leave which is non-transferable.
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, suggested that this reform could contribute to both parents being able to spend time with their new child:
We need to urgently overhaul the parental leave system, not just tinker around the edges. Both parents should have time to care and bond with their baby, without having to transfer leave between them.
Without meaningful reforms, many dads won’t be able to afford to take time off work when their kids are born. And women will continue to shoulder an unequal share of care and be penalised.
As it stands, many expecting parents opt to take maternity leave which is paid for up to 39 weeks and allows women to receive 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks.
Conversely, Statutory Shared Parental Pay is calculated at £151.97 a week which is around half of the current Living Wage.
Felicia Willow, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, stated:
We need a radical rethink and what needs to come first is a system that enables and encourages men to take leave. When we asked parents, almost 70 per cent of dads said fathers should be given longer and better-paid time off. The demand is there.
Zurich, an insurance company, investigated this issue in September of last year. The company found that two-fifths of new fathers were not taking the amount of paternity leave that they feel they need to bond with their new children. Almost half (45 per cent) stated that this was because they could not afford to take a drop in their salaries.
As such, the company rolled out an enhanced paternity package. Over three-quarters of new fathers (78 per cent) took three months or more of paid paternity leave whilst seven in 10 took the full 16-week paid paternity leave entitlement.
Discussing this, Steve Collinson, Zurich’s Head of HR said:
The reaction we’ve had from parents about our gender-neutral family leave policy has been overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of parents telling us of their intention to take the full 16 weeks leave. This forms part of a broader approach to family friendly working and flexibility for parents and carers. By enhancing statutory provision for all parents, we are supporting them in playing a more active role in family life.
Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.