Since April 2015 it has been possible for new parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave following the birth of a child, which sounds great, doesn’t it?
Think of the advantages; a more flexible approach to parenting in those first months and taking time off together or separately to care for a new baby.
So how has it worked in reality?
The latest numbers from the tax year 2018-19 show that just 9,200 parents took advantage of the scheme! With approximately 679,000 babies born during this time that is a take up of less than 1.5%.
Why? I hear you ask – it’s such a great initiative.
Employees say the reasons they’re not taking up the leave relate to:
- The reduced pay for men whilst on shared parental leave especially because men, on average, are the higher earners.
- Availability of leave – for a father to take advantage of the scheme, mothers must reduce their entitlement to leave after having their baby
- It is a complicated scheme to administer
Right now, it is just not working for employees or employers.
In 2018 the government published a report which criticised the complexity and design of the scheme and blamed the low level of take up on this.
Some commentators have suggested scraping the scheme all together and replacing it with enhanced statutory paternity leave or a scheme which does not require parents to share leave but that provides additional leave for fathers thus eliminating the need for employers to work with other employers to correctly administer the scheme and alleviating the financial pressure on families.