Government Publishes Shared Parental Leave Figures
Since April 2015, parents have had more choice in how they can care for their child with the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL). This allows for eligible parents who share a responsibility for a child to take parental leave at the same time or to share shared parental leave evenly to be off at different times. To be entitled to shared parental leave, the parent must:
- be sharing responsibility with the other parent from the day of the child’s birth or adoption placement;
- be legally classed as an employee;
- must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before their baby is due or their adoption match date and still be working for the same employer a week before the start of each block of leave they take; and
- their partner must also have worked for at least 26 of 66 weeks and have earned an average of at least £30 a week in any 13 weeks.
Since the introduction of SPL there has been a lot of criticism and take-up remains lows. It was implemented as a flagship policy with the intentions of transforming gender equality and making life easier for families, however there has since been significant pleads for the government to overhaul the parental leave system to allow both parents to have time to care and bond with their baby.
In July 2019, the government published the Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families, setting out three separate consultation which included one on reforming the family leave and pay system. One of the possibilities that the government wanted to consider was to reform the SPL system. The consultation closed on 29 November 2019, but the government’s response is still awaited.
Many campaign groups have since been urging the government to reform the SPL scheme which they described as deeply flawed and underused. The campaigners considered that the best reform was to replace SPL scheme with a new model of parental leave which would give both parents non-transferrable paid leave to care for their child, encouraging fathers to share the burden of childcare which still falls largely on new mothers in heterosexual relationships.
The most recent update comes from the government’s response to a written question. On 31 March 2023, the government published figures which showed the number of people who have taken SPL since it was introduced. The number of women taking SPL during this period nearly tripled from 1,100 to 3,200. For men, the number almost doubled, from 5,100 to 9,800. Whilst it is encouraging to see that this number has increased, the total number of men and women taking shared parental leave in 2021/22 remains low, at only 13,000.
On the same day, the government also confirmed that it is still considering the information received in response to the 2019 consultation in relation to options to reform parental leave and pay and will respond to the consultation in ‘due course’. The government did acknowledge that evaluating Shared Parental Leave and Pay is an important part of the policy making process which hopefully bodes well for future reform.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.