A guide to: Shared Parental Leave

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Shared Parental Leave (SPL) allows parents in the UK to share up to 39 weeks’ pay and up to 52 weeks’ leave.

Parents can choose to take up to six months off work at the same time or stagger their leave so that there is always someone to care for their child. The scheme is also open to adoptive parents, same-sex couples and co-habiting couples.

To qualify for Shared Parental Leave, either parent must have been in the same job for at least 26 weeks. Additionally, to qualify for pay they must be earning at least £112 per week during an eight-week period. The other parent must also be employed or self-employed for those 26 weeks. They must have earned at least £30 on average in any 13 of the 66 weeks before the week the baby is due.

The idea of the scheme is to allow new dads the time to bond with their child and give mothers the opportunity to return to work if they wish.

Despite this, statistics suggest that the uptake of SPL is low and experts are urging more companies to show their support for the legislation.

Damian Sivajoti, 28, is an Actuary in the Pensions team at one of the UK’s top professional services firm, KPMG.

Why did you decide to take SPL?

The main reason I decided to take it is to spend quality time with my son and to really understand what it’s like to be responsible for him on my own.  The leave also allows me to delay paying childcare costs for a few months.  I had a fantastic time.  He was nine months when I took the leave, which was a really interesting age when he was developing so quickly so the opportunity to play a more central role in this part of him life was one I couldn’t resist.

How did you broach the subject with your employer?

KPMG has been hugely supportive; they do a lot for their staff; for example I’ve taken advantage of a number of training sessions that are offered.  There are webinars or group or one-to-one sessions that give advice on preparing to be a dad, balancing work and family and returning to work after my leave.  It’s been a brilliant support and really helped me to balance work and family.  My manager has been fantastic I haven’t experienced any negativity around the decision.  I went off for 12 weeks so in the context of a 40+-year career it’s not a big issue, but in the reality of bonding with my baby and our family, it’s enormous.  The Government did a brilliant thing when they launched the scheme and I feel very lucky that I am in a position to be able to take advantage of it.

What were the positives and negatives?

The only challenge was convincing my wife to go back to work!  My only prior reservations were of course financial considerations.  However, I thought long and hard about the impact it could potentially have on my career development. But having spoken to my manger, it quickly became clear this was a non-issue. Once people start seeing their colleagues take SPL and hear about the experiences they have it becomes the norm, I can really see more and more people taking it, I know of a few more in our team already.

In 2014, when Shared Parental Leave first came into force, Ramsdens Solicitors conducted a survey of 520 men to assess the attitudes surrounding SPL. The survey found that 33 per cent believed their colleagues would view them negatively for taking more than two weeks paternity leave. However, over half of those surveyed would consider splitting parental leave. Of those who wouldn’t, the main reason for not splitting leave was because they were the higher earner in the relationship.

The study also found that only 12 per cent of men at the time took more than two weeks of parental leave for their most recent child.

Ben Black, Director of My Family Care, the experts in family friendly working, suggests that the take up has been far lower than anticipated due to a number of reasons. He said, “Reasons are fourfold: perception, men are worried about how they will be viewed; awareness; financial; and slightly bizarrely, women not thinking their partner deserves to share any of their hard-earned maternity leave.”

Black advised those looking into Shared Parental Leave to talk openly about it.

He said, “Like the whole flexible working debate it is largely about having good conversations.”

“Have an idea about when and how much leave you want to take and how the team will manage in your absence.”

“Take-up might be low but the best and enlightened employers, people like Deloitte and Citi, are doing loads to promote it and prove that it works for everyone – father, mother and employer.”

Speaking about how employers can help to encourage more employees to take up SPL, Black said, “If you’re serious about getting the most talented women to the top then it is imperative.”

“Encouraging SPL take-up is the single best way to stop maternity transition being a huge career obstacle.”

“Raise awareness and then work like hell to prove that senior men can hold up their hands as dads and not have their careers blown off track as a result.”

Mark Smith, 42, from London is a Managing Director in Accenture’s Health and Public Service business and has been with the organisation for 19 years.

Why did you decide to take SPL?

I made the decision to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) following my son, Louis’ arrival in July last year. For my wife (Emma) and I having a child is a joint responsibility, and so it felt right that we are able to decide how we wanted to share the first year of childcare between us.

We also believe our jobs are equal in terms of responsibility and importance.  My wife runs a boutique-marketing consultancy, so it’s important that she isn’t on leave for a significant period of time to the detriment of her business and the long-nurtured client base. Being able to balance our individual work responsibilities and business needs over the course of 9 months with the progressive childcare options available to us meant that we were able to find that equilibrium.

How did you broach the subject with your employer?

I’m fortunate that Accenture has taken a progressive approach that was well communicated from the outset. And it came from leadership down – with support for the policy spanning the organisation.

They sent out information about how the legislation changed, that they were offering up to 32 weeks leave on full pay and benefits, plus two weeks’ standard paternity leave and how employees could put their name forward. I approached my boss and our HR partner to explain my reasons for wanting to take SPL and they were fully supportive. I elected to take my full leave entitlement, commencing in September and ending in April earlier this year.

What were the positives and negatives?

Parents know that the first months of a child’s life are very precious and flash by in the blink of an eye, so for me the memories were unforgettable. I loved the bonding, the fact that Louis would see me as an ‘equal’ parent so when he was down or wanted a cuddle he’d come to me as much as he would Emma. I also realised how all-encompassing being a parent is – and how little time there is to do anything else. I feel very privileged to have been able to watch my son grow and develop in the first months of his life.

I personally didn’t have any reservations about taking shared parental leave, but understandably some fathers may have concerns about how taking time out of work could impact their career in the long term. I believe those concerns will quickly be overcome as more men choose to take an active role in looking after their young children. As those men return to work and discuss their experiences, the benefits will become evident and will encourage other fathers to make similar choices.

To find out more about Shared Parental Leave and to see if you are eligible, click here.

Read our latest articles, news and advice on Shared Parental Leave:

Fathers are being advised to apply for Shared Parental Leave

The government is urging dads and fathers-to-be to consider applying for Shared Parental Leave (SPL).

New Shared Parental Leave (SPL) Legislation

The new Shared Parental Leave (SPL) right allows parents to share the time allocated to them when their child is born or adopted. Its offers flexibility in how and when you both take leave. Instead of using all of your leave in one go you can now separate the leave into blocks.

Bumps and the Boardroom: Why Shared Parental Leave is paving the way for more women on boards

The announcement in December of revised parental leave legislation paves the way for new thinking around the pregnancy journey and transition to motherhood for female executives. My experience as an advisor to business and supporting mothers-to-be exit and elegantly return to the workplace whilst maintaining an upward career trajectory and become the mother they want to be, points to a shorter six-month, full-time break from work as being the optimum, but with maternity leave commencing slightly earlier in pregnancy than is often currently the norm.

Shared Parental Leave, time it happened or waste of time? | Andrea May, Parental Choice

Jo Swinson, MP and the Minister for Employment Relations, recently confirmed that the Government’s plans for shared parental leave had come through consultation and were being included in the Children and Families Bill which will come into law in 2015.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.
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