The Women and Equalities Committee have launched an inquiry into whether Shared Parental Leave is working.
A recent survey by Working Families revealed that while 52 per cent of fathers said they would use the scheme, of the 48 per cent who would not, almost a third said it was because they could not afford to.
The findings also showed that a quarter of fathers did not know about Shared Parental Leave.
The committee has now published written evidence from fathers about Shared Parental Leave, two years since the flagship Government scheme was introduced.
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.
As part of their inquiry, the committee heard from fathers who questioned whether the scheme was indeed working at all.
One father said, “I would love dearly to improve my work life balance and spend more time raising my children and lightening the load from my exhausted wife, who has a lowly paid night-time supermarket job because she had to give up her better paid day job at the time of having children.”
“Shared Parental Leave appeared pointless to us (and probably most relationships) post birth because I’m the breadwinner and it makes no financial sense, as we struggle financially already.”
“It sounded fantastic until you read the small print.”
“Men should be allowed a longer period of full paid leave, like women can be entitled to.”
Another father told the inquiry, “The introduction of Shared Parental Leave was seen by my wife and I as a welcome measure to encourage the sharing of childcare responsibilities, for what we had planned to be months 7-9 after our son’s birth, prior to him being ready for full-time day care.”
“Our plan was to alternate working weeks in the shared period.”
“The reality was that my employer appeared to have little practical consideration for how Shared Parental Leave would work and what its implications would be.”
“Indeed, I would have been the pilot case in my unit of work.”
“While there was a form to complete at my workplace to formally apply for Shared Parental Leave, the implication of taking it was that workload would not be reduced at my unit of work, nor responsibilities passed to others.”
“Thus, I would simply have received less pay for holding down the same workload.”
“So, taking up Shared Parental Leave would have led to me increasingly working at evenings and weekends as ‘spillover’ of duties from dealing with the same amount of work in addition to taking care of my son in the Shared Parental Leave provision on alternate weeks.”
“The current Shared Parental Leave arrangements appear to encourage an unrealistic stance that fathers can hold down same intensity and responsibility level of work in Shared Parental Leave, through being given more flexibility to balance duties.”
“My experiences may partly explain the low uptake.”
Speaking about the inquiry, Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said, “Shared Parental Leave has been a key family friendly policy of this Government and its introduction two years ago was very welcome.”
“However, as the written evidence to our inquiry shows, fathers are questioning whether it works for them in practice, and that is a concern.”
“Whether it be the financial implications of taking up SPL or the attitudes and culture of employers, this policy may not be having the intended effect.”
“As our fathers and the workplace inquiry continues, we will be considering this and making recommendations to ensure that fathers have the support they need to care for their children.”