From its inception in April 2015, shared parental leave (SPL) has been heralded as an equality breakthrough for hard-working families, allowing parents a greater degree of choice and flexibility when it comes to dividing childcare following the birth or adoption of a child.
Despite Nick Clegg’s endorsement at the time that the new rules were designed to “challenge the old-fashioned assumption that women will always be the parent that stays at home,” one year on from the policy being introduced, various surveys of employers and parents have shown that only 1% of eligible fathers are taking advantage of this opportunity. This is well below even the government’s modest estimation that initial uptake figures could be between 2% and 8%.
This begs the question: what is it that’s holding dad’s back?
Alongside the expected financial and cultural concerns surrounding new father’s taking substantial time off work, a chief concern for businesses and employees centres on the complexity of eligibility entitlements. The success of SPL really does depend on the ability of parents and firms to understand their entitlement, and whether they can afford to take it.
Both parents need to meet complex eligibility and qualification requirements, co-ordinate their applications, and in certain cases, get the approval of both of their employers for their requested leave patterns. This means that exercising their new rights in practice could be difficult. In turn, this could mean that the opportunities the new scheme presents for both employees and employers may not necessarily materialise.
HR professionals have expressed widespread concern over the complexity of SPL, with the wording of the legislation itself attracting criticism for “lacking plain English” and being “user-unfriendly.” Many feel that too much of how shared parental leave will actually wok in practice has been left up to HR to interpret. A survey conducted by XpertHR found that numerous respondents used the words “minefield” and “administrative nightmare” when describing experiences of drafting shared parental leave policies, with many bemoaning the late arrival of practical guidance from the Government in regards to implementation.
With implementation and entitlement legislation likely to continue to evolve for SPL, a practical way for HR professionals to remove common administration headaches is to invest in modern, intuitive, cloud-based technology. Our HR and payroll software, for example, has long supported clients during periods of change, empowering them to manage any new processes and procedures that arise, so that employee rights, long-term retention and bottom line business performance continue to improve.
As an HR technology specialist, we have the tools to help you manage the entire SPL process, including issuing reminders for time limits on dealing with notices to book SPL, calculating entitlement dates and pay, and organising SPL keeping in touch days.
If you’re interested in finding out how our flexible, configurable solutions could help you to manage SPL without the headache, then why not book a demo?