The introduction of Shared Parental Leave means that from April 2015, parents will have more choice in how they share the care of their child and time off work in the first year of their baby’s life. Under the new rules, mums must still take at least two weeks of maternity leave immediately after birth, but after that working couples can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.
Every family is unique and the new Shared Parental Leave regulations recognise that by giving real flexibility and choice to parents. Parents and adopters can choose when they return to work and dads and partners can spend more time bonding with their children during the precious early stages of their development.
A dad could opt to take the entire 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave or he might simply take an extra three or four weeks at home after baby is born. A mum might take the first 6 months with dad taking over when she goes back to work or a couple could opt to stay at home together for up to 26 weeks.
The old assumption that childcare was only an issue for mums fails to recognise the crucial role that dads play and the evidence shows that dads are increasingly keen to be very involved in caring for their new-borns.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently published the fourth edition of our Work Life Balance Survey which shows that there is a growing demand from fathers to spend extra time at home around the birth of a child.
Nearly two fifths of workplaces (37%) had male employees who had babies born within the last two years. Of these workplaces, the vast majority (90%) indicated that all these employees had taken time off around the birth of their child. 95% of fathers working in establishments employing five or more people had taken time off work following the birth of their baby.
Overall 36% of workplaces had experienced a male employee taking time off around birth of a child. The previous Work Life Balance Survey published in 2007 had found that only 29% work places had experienced men taking time off around the birth of a child.
Shared Parental Leave will help to drive this cultural shift in the workplace, making it just as normal for fathers to take on childcare responsibilities as mothers. Mums and adopters will have real choice about when they return to work, dads will have more time to bond with their children. Children will have better outcomes, while employers will benefit from lower staff turnover and having a workforce that is more flexible and motivated.