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A step towards equality?

 April 15, 2015

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For Shared Parental Leave (SPL) to make an actual impact for parents across professions and sectors, employers must embrace these new rights and encourage their male employees to consider requesting SPL.

Who says women need to be the only parents who provide care for infants in their first important year of life? 

It is hard to imagine how women’s equality might be achieved without reconsidering attitudes to care.

SPL gives parents greater choice in how they share time off work, and how they provide care in the first year of their child's life. 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

The first step for anyone wanting to take advantage of these new rules is to speak to their employer about whether they have an SPL policy in place. It is important to remember that the employers of both parents will have to agree the arrangements. Therefore, discussing the pros and cons of taking either continuous or discontinuous SPL with everyone involved at the earliest opportunity would be wise. Note that employers cannot refuse a request for continuous SPL - only for requests to take the leave over broken up periods.

Women looking to return to work as soon as possible might want to simply take the first six weeks off as maternity leave as most will receive 90% of their pay as a statutory right. Businesses with a high proportion of female staff can take advantage of this opportunity to encourage key employees back sooner by sharing some of their leave with their partner. Offering enhanced Shared Parental Pay is one way to do this.

No doubt the families who will make the best use of the new legislation are those where the woman is the higher earner. What may dissuade men from taking SPL is the fact that maternity discrimination is still rife and they will not want to jeopardise their own job security.

But let’s be positive in hoping that this is a move towards a broader cultural change, where enhanced flexibility will allow men and women to pursue both career and family plans, on an equal footing.

By Fiona Martin, Director and Head of Employment at Martin Searle Solicitors

Martin Searle Solicitors is an award-winning law firm providing specialist legal advice and support in employment law for employers and employees, as well as expert guidance and legal advice in community care law.

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