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Shared Parental Leave

Posted by
21 May 2014

Shared Parental Leave is one of several employment law changes to be introduced in 2014, and has been subject to much speculation and discussion across the national press regarding the impact that this might have for both employers and employees.

So what exactly is 'Shared Parental Leave' and what effect might it have on the employment landscape?

Essentially, this allows parents to take a more equal approach to childcare for a newborn or newly adopted child, rather than the traditional division between the two to fifty-two week Maternity Leave allowance and the two week Paternity Leave allowance, which can potentially cement the idea of the father as breadwinner for the family.

Parents may be able to take a combined total amount of 50 weeks of leave either together or in alternate blocks, provided that employers can accommodate this - however the regulations have not yet been finalised. 

This change in the long-standing model can mean that mothers might choose to return to the workplace earlier, making the transition back to work easier, and encourage fathers to take more time off.

However, the system still retains most of the decision-making ability in mothers' hands as maternity leave has to be curtailed in order to use Shared Parental Leave.

This modification represents a determination on the part of the government to create a more family-friendly culture in the workplace, but the real test will be in the uptake of this by employees.

The persistence of stereotypes regarding gender roles and the division of labour will have an important part to play in determining the use of this initiative - and culture is, as most will agree, hard to change. Both employers and workers will have to work out the challenges of the system in the way most appropriate to their business and individual circumstances, and it may indeed prove difficult to navigate in the early stages of implementation. 

Despite some reccuring questions, this does present a new set of options for parents, and perhaps it will indeed help achieve further gender equality within the UK employment landscape - which can only be of benefit to society as a whole.

What impact do you think Shared Parental Leave will have on the current labour market; will it really make a difference or is society too set in its ways? Leave your thoughts and experiences below.

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