A Paternal Milestone: Shared Leave And Your Business

December 8th, 2014 by

As new legislation allowing for maternity leave to be shared between partners is introduced, we take a look at how well this addresses the issue of gender inequality and just how much it could affect your business…

Gender equality is a very current issue. For centuries, women have been fighting for their right to equal pay and societal treatment, and as the gender pay gap reached a record low recently, I’d say things are slowly moving in the right direction.

Recently, it was Harry Potter star Emma Watson who took to the podium to discuss gender inequality. Although most famous for her role in the eight-part blockbuster franchise, Watson has gone on to star in many roles, and was this year appointed the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, in which capacity she gave her speech. Her #HeForShe campaign put the spotlight on how men are affected by gender stereotyping, and how social expectations govern the way in which men feel they can lead their lives. Almost 200,000 men worldwide have joined the campaign in support not only of themselves, but of the women in their lives, as a supportive notion in recognition of gender inequality against people such as their mothers, wives and daughters.

The way in which gender inequality should be addressed comes from both sides: this week we see new rights being given to allow parents to share their statutory period of leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke out this year about gender inequality in the workplace, stating that ‘We have to sweep away those Edwardian rules which still hold back those families working hard to juggle their responsibilities at home and work’. Clegg went on to state that ‘We need to tackle once and for all the hidden prejudices which still limit the choices of many men and women. And we need to create the same equal opportunities for both sexes to care as well as earn’. And so they have, it would seem…

The new ruling on parental leave means that from 5th April 2015, fathers and partners will have the chance to share in those joyous (and strenuous) early months of parenthood, while the career mums out there will have the chance to keep their career flowing by sharing their maternity leave with their partner.

So, what’s changing? The guidelines are as follows:

  • 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay will continue to be offered to employed mothers
  • Eligible mothers can now choose to end their maternity leave early, opting for shared parental leave as distributed between themselves and their partners up to the value of the aforementioned 52 weeks of leave / 39 weeks of pay
  • Partners can decide how to share their parental leave; they can decide to take time off together, or to alternate leave so as to extend their childcare availability
  • The two weeks’ paternity leave currently available to partners of mothers will continue

What could this mean for your business?

As an employer, this new system of parental leave could affect the way that your business works. After an initial two-week period, up to 50 weeks of leave and 39 weeks of pay can now be shared between mothers and fathers which could go one of two ways for your business, depending on which you employ:

The new ruling could see the mothers of your workforce able to stay in work, continuing their contribution to your company alongside their new motherhood. This could be a great bonus for both you and them as their obligation to be the stay-at-home parent is lifted and the shared responsibility of the childcare allows them to continue climbing up the career ladder.

Or, the power of extending enhanced maternity pay will remain in your business hands to offer to whichever parent should be taking the leave. Whilst the government predict that 285,000 working couples will be eligible for shared parental leave by April 2015, many argue that the number of couples willing to try out the scheme will be dependent on their individual employer’s decision as to whether or not they will be offering enhanced pay.

Do you think shared parental leave will prove to be a successful way to tackle gender inequality? Tweet us @UK2

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