Shared Parental Leave – is it worth it?

emma clearyOur guest blog comes from Emma Cleary, Director Ten2Two Sussex a recruitment agency that specialises in flexible, part-time roles for professionals.  Emma thinks that the UK has a way to go before we catch up with family friendly Sweden.

 Shhhh! When you start a family, you can’t tell many people at first for various reasons. A big one is how work will react and also, how you will respond to questions about time off once the baby is born. And with the new rules around Shared Parental Leave, it seems there’s even more to think about.

So it’s no surprise that for many women, working out when and how to announce your pregnancy at work can be tricky. The government introduced Shared Parental Leave in April 2016 to combat this ‘female’ problem. Its success is due to be measured once it’s reviewed in 2018, but so far, the UK has been slow to adopt the new laws.

Is Shared Parental Leave for everyone?

When you have a baby, you must take at least two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave immediately after the birth. In addition, you can have up to 52 weeks maternity leave and last year’s new rules mean you can choose to opt for Shared Parental Leave.  Sadly, self-employed mums can’t get it, which is probably something the government needs to reconsider given that this earning group is thought to be on the rise.

Sweden leads the parental pack…again

Many Nordic countries – and in particular, Sweden where ‘men can have it all’ apparently – already have generous parental leave and companies there have come to expect employees to take leave irrespective of gender, and not to penalise workers once it’s time for promotions. However, the UK is feeling the Arctic chill, with many families choosing not to adopt the new changes based on fears about lack of promotion for fathers as a main concern.

The problem is, that until childcare becomes a parental issue, rather than a ‘female’ issue, it’s thought that the gender pay gap will remain for the foreseeable future. In addition, employees in small (and sadly, large ones too) businesses will still worry about their future once they reveal their baby plans. And when it comes to the recruitment process, some businesses will sadly still base hiring decisions on gender rather than ability.

So what is the UK doing well?

A third of the UK’s main breadwinners are now women and we’re betting this is growing as we speak. It’s helped by better childcare options like breakfast and after school clubs and flexible working jobs rights have been introduced to help families as their babies become children with homework, after school clubs and all the other fun and games that childhood involves. 

Like anything, new ways of working can often be slow to be adopted at first. The most forward-thinking companies stand to benefit by getting in on the act though – flexible working jobs used to be viewed as a massive company perk. But with millennials expecting, rather than hoping for greater flexibility when applying for roles, this is no longer true. It’s one example of how time can be a great game changer.

Shared Parental Leave: a step in the right direction

Let’s hope families don’t have to wait too long before Shared Parental Leave becomes the norm rather than the exception. And if you’re starting a family, don’t be undeterred – half of the UK’s workforce are parents, so, like learning to drive, the chances are your co-workers will have been in the same boat as you and will be highly understanding.

 

 

 

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