shared parental leave payShared Parental Leave will enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed for adoption. This could mean that the mother or adopter shares some of the leave with her partner, perhaps returning to work for part of the time and then resuming leave at a later date.

It is designed to give parents more flexibility in how to share the care of their child in the first year following birth or adoption. Parents will be able to share a pot of leave, and can decide to be off work at the same time and/or take it in turns to have periods of leave to look after the child.

Shared Parental Leave 2015

  • New entitlement comes into force from 1 December 2014 for eligible parents of children due to be born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015
  • Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave as a day one right
  • Mothers can choose to end their maternity leave after the initial 2 weeks recovery period; working parents can then decide how they want to share the remaining leave
  • Fathers will gain a new right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments
  • There will be new statutory payment for parents on shared parental leave with the same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay
  • Those who have adopted a child will be entitled to the same pay and leave as birth parents.

Shared Parental Leave Impact On Small Businesses

Nicky Goringe LarkinFederation Of Small Business (FSB) Regional Chair Nicky Goringe Larkin speaks to Phil Gayle on BBC Radio Oxford over impact to small business of these new regulations.

The transcript can be seen below.

[Phil] From today, mums and dads can now share 50 weeks leave when they have a new baby.  With me in the studio is Professor Tina Miller, she is a parenting expert from Oxford Brookes University, she is the author of ‘Making Sense Of Motherhood’.  Good morning to you Tina.

[Tina] Good morning

[Phil] Also with us is Nicky Goringe Larkin from the Thames Valley Federation Of Small Businesses (FSB).  Good morning to you Nicky.

[Nicky] Good morning Phil.

[Phil] We’ll start with you Tina Miller.  Just explain to us then what these changes will involve?

[Tina] Well the things that don’t change are maternity leave and paternity leave, so they stay the same.  But what happens is that under shared parental leave (which as you say comes in early April) a mother can hand over, end her maternity leave early, and hand over shared parental leave to the father.  So after the first 2 weeks following the birth, and up to the child’s first birthday the leave can be shared.

[Phil] So there’s no more time overall, it’s just that the first 2 weeks, everybody gets 2 weeks off.  And then the mother was able to get 50 weeks anyway, and now it’s not just the mother, it the mother or the father.

[Tina] Yes, the mother can hand that over, and can choose to share the remaining leave.

[Phil] This sounds like a bit of a logistic nightmare.  What do you make of it Nicky Goringe Larkin?

[Nicky] I think it’s very difficult for small businesses because there’s probably not people within their business to already cover the work for the maternity or the paternity leave.  Obviously we do welcome fathers becoming more and more involved.  However, it’s just the logistics of it, to get temp cover can be very difficult.  For some roles there is not even any kind of temp cover.  What we at the FSB are more concerned about is where it can be swapping between the two, so then it’s very very difficult to plan.

[Phil] How will that work then Tina Miller?  You’ve got 50 weeks to share.  Who’s keeping a track of who’s taking how much from where?

[Tina] I am not sure of that part.  But I do know what works. We are going to see how this actually maps out, and obviously it’s new.  We have seen it happen in other countries and it’s been very successful in some of them because they have put particular things in place.  But one of the reasons is we are talking about it today is that from today people can start to request this type of shared leave, that will come into, as we said earlier, work practice in April.  The father or mother have to give their employer a minimum of 8 weeks’ notice of their intention.  And they can take up to, as I understand it, 3 blocks of leave.  They can take it separately or the parents can take it together.  They do have to give a minimum of 8 weeks, but it’s absolutely right that the employer – providing they have been given 8 weeks prior to the leave being taken – have to agree the leave.

[Phil] What do we get out of this as a society?  What is the government trying to do?

[Tina] They are trying to do various things.  One of them is to encourage and enable fathers to be more involved in the first year of their life, and we know that is important on a number of measures.  But equally they are also trying to address the gender pay gap, the gender gap in the work place.  More women actually have careers, more women work, more women are the bread winners in the household.  So to give more flexibility in caring arrangement is very important.  I am not sure that this quite complex and quite poorly remunerated plan will actually work, but we will see.

[Phil]  Nicky Goringe Larkin; so explain to us how from an employer’s point of view.  Someone has a new baby, and at the moment they go off and take 2 weeks to start with and decide how they go on.  So you then have to provide cover, pay the cover and pay the parent that is taking the time off?

[Nicky] Yes; so for the employer, they do get maternity or paternity cover from the government.  However, if you want to pay anything above that to retain the staff, the employer pays it, plus they have to pay for the temp cover (and temp cover is generally more expensive anyway), plus you also have the time of training that temp person. So it’s a lot of cost, a lot of time involved in it as well.  Just for a normal maternity leave, you are already planning, as you are not sure how long someone is going to take off.  They could take off 2 weeks, they could take off up to a year.  So it is very difficult to plan.  A smaller employer – where they haven’t got the other people already within the business that can do that role – it is reliant upon resourcing extra people, which of course has a cost to it.

[Phil] Does this cause you headaches anyway, as a matter of course?

[Nicky] Yes it does, but at least at the moment you are taking about one person and also it’s all in one block.  It’s going to be even more tricky when its multiple blocks and you are not quite sure when those blocks are.  If you are trying to commit to getting in a temp to cover, you are not sure if you are having to take them on for a couple of weeks, or a year, or if they are going to be on and off.  So it is very difficult to plan that situation.  I do think it’s a good idea to get the fathers involved etc, but I am not sure this is necessarily going to be the best way.

[Phil] I didn’t realize that paternity pay and maternity was remunerated by the government.  Is that as a set rate?

[Tina] Yes, set rate

[Nicky] Yes it’s a set rate.  The first 6 weeks of maternity pay is 90% average of the earnings at a particular period of your pregnancy that is remunerated.  But of course, after the 6 weeks it’s quite a small amount.  So whoever is the main earner, or even if (given nowadays how high mortgages are) you are both significant breadwinners – it’s doesn’t go very far anyway, the actual statutory amount.

[Phil] So Nicky, you see this as a good idea in principal, but you think it’s going to cost you.  How would this have been better?  How would this be better?

[Nicky] To be honest, I don’t know straight off how this would be better.  But I think it’s more about the other things that are already there – like flexible working and encouraging flexible working for the father and the mother, which is already within legislation.  If that was encouraged even more, that can be worked out with a lot of employers.  A lot of employers are becoming more flexible so it gets the fathers involved.  I see sort of the extremes at the moment.  You’ve either got fathers that are massively actively involved and are trying to do some school pick-ups and all things like that.  And then you have others that leave it all completely to the mothers and so a lot of working mothers are literally trying to juggle two things and it’s very stressful.  So anything that is encouraging the father, is great – but it’s not necessarily the best way this one {legislation} at the moment.

[Phil] Let me see if I can potentially ask you a question and not get a slap for it.  Do either of you take off time when you had little ones and how much did you take off?

[Nicky] Yes I did but very very little, because I was in the early years of running my own business.  So again, I didn’t have enough cover within my business at that time, so it was only literally a few weeks.  My husband took a couple of weeks off as well.

[Phil] So has your perspective changed as your business has grown?

[Nicky] Yes, because I do have a lot of women working for me, and I have had a lot of pregnancies within the company.

[Phil] So you’ve gone from what to what, how has it changed?

[Nicky] Well I’ve got about 12 people now…

[Phil] No I don’t mean that.  I mean in terms of your attitude?

[Nicky] Oh attitude!  It’s just that I didn’t realize just how difficult it is to sort out the cover, the logistics, and the cost of it.  I just hadn’t realized.

[Phil] How about you Tina Miller?

[Tina] Yeh I work part time, but I also had my first child living in Bangladesh, so there was no types of leave for maternity leave or anything like that.  I think one of the problems with this is actually going to be getting men to use it, and that’s what we have found if we look to northern Europe etc.  In Sweden they had introduced this nearly 30 years ago, they had 9% take-up amongst men.  When they then dedicated 1 month, and they called it ‘daddy leave’, in this year after birth – and the men had to use it or lose it, it was non-transferable – the take up went up to 49%.  So I’ve been one of the people saying that if we really want fathers involved, we need to actually say ‘this is daddy quota’, ‘this is daddy month’, ‘this particular time in the maternity leave is for fathers only, and they have to take it or they lose it’.  And it has to be well remunerated.  I know that’s not easy.  And I agree with all the things that Nicky is saying about, with all the difficulty of making this work.  But equally, if a father is staying at home, then it means that the mother is back in her job.  So it’s sort of swings and roundabouts.  We’re dealing with the organization of family life that now involves caring and paid work outside the home for both partners very often.

[Phil] So it’s all very well the government putting in place the opportunity for fathers to get involved but now you have to convince fathers that they really should get involved, and that’s a much harder sell.

[Tina] Certainly in my research on men becoming fathers, showed that fathers that although that had lots of intentions before the baby was born to be there to share care.  All these things, everything except for breast-feeding that was the one thing they realized they wouldn’t be doing.  When they realized what hard work caring for a child is, and how undervalued it is, they actually wanted to be back at work.  And they really felt – and this is important – that they were letting down work colleagues etc by taking time out, by not being in the work place.  So I think this is a really complex area.

[Phil] Thank you both for starting us off on this conversation. Nicky Goringe Larkin from the Thames Valley Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Professor Tina Miller from Oxford Brookes University.  Thank you.