The Government has launched a campaign to promote shared parental leave after statistics have revealed that very few couples are making use of the programme.
Figures published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that of the 285,000 couples eligible, only 2 per cent have actually used shared parental leave since it was introduced in 2015.
The campaign is being backed by a £1.5 million investment with the objective of encouraging couples to ‘Share the joy’ of parenting. Backed by social media and digital advertising together with advertisements along commuter routes, it will hinge on providing information and guidance on how the scheme works. A new shared parental leave website has also been launched.
Shared parental leave allows mothers to terminate their maternity leave and pay at a certain date so that their partner can make use of the balance of leave that has not been taken. Up to 50 weeks of leave can be shared, or up to six months’ taken off work together.
Business minister Andrew Griffiths said: ‘Shared parental leave gives choice to families. Dads and partners don’t have to miss out on their baby’s first step, word or giggle – they can share the childcare, and share the joy.
‘Employers can reap the benefits too. We know that flexibility in work is proven to create happier, more loyal and more productive workforces.
‘Providing truly flexible employment options is a key part of the Industrial Strategy, the Government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future by helping businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK.’
A 2017 survey by charity Working Families revealed that 25 per cent of fathers had never heard of shared parental leave. Sarah Jackson, chief executive of the charity, explained that a lot of fathers would be interested in using the scheme, but were either not eligible for it or decided not to use it as they would only be given the minimum statutory rate of £140.98 per week.
‘The Government’s drive to raise awareness amongst parents about the scheme is a step in the right direction. Many fathers are excluded from the scheme because they haven’t been in their job for long enough. The Government should make shared parental leave a day one right for fathers in the same way that maternity leave is for mothers and extend the scheme to self-employed parents,’ she said.
‘Of those fathers who said they wouldn’t use the scheme, more than a third said this was because they couldn’t afford to. Those employers that can afford to should go beyond the minimum pay for share parental leave.
‘But if the Government is serious about equality at work and tackling the gender pay gap, it should consider also introducing a properly paid, standalone period of extended paternity leave for fathers.’
If you are unsure as to how shared parental leave works or are interested in making the scheme more attractive to your employees, why not consult with your bookkeepers? They will be able to explain how shared parental leave works, the benefits to your workforce and how it will pan out financially for you.