29 April 2015

What are the opportunities presented by shared parental leave?

Shared parental leave will apply to British couples whose child is born after 5 April 2015. We look at the opportunities this presents employers and its positive effect it can have on employee engagement.

Back in 1974, Sweden pioneered the introduction of paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers.

Today, according to the UN’s International Labour Organization, 66 countries have adopted legislative provisions on shared parental leave – mostly in the developed economies, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Now the UK is enshrining shared parental leave (SPL) in its employment law, benefiting those parents whose child is born after 5 April 2015.

Shared parental leave around the world
• 36 countries out of the 66 offer paid parental leave
• 18 countries offer cash benefits that match two-thirds or more of a worker’s previous earnings
• The remaining countries offer lower levels of support, including flat rate benefits

Take-up in the UK
More people than initially expected are likely to take up SPL. Linklaters solicitors found that 63% of people surveyed said they were either interested or very interested in taking up the new right. Government estimates had been up to 6%.

Planning ahead
Whichever way SPL is structured, one proviso is constant: all employers offering it need to accommodate a high number of employees taking various short time periods away from their jobs.

This contrasts with planning for maternity leave, whereby fewer employees take longer periods away.

In the UK, SPL will entitle parents to three interchangeable blocks of leave at as little as one week.

Benefits to business
One of the most powerful arguments for SPL is the positive ripple effects it has on women’s opportunities in the workplace. In Sweden, says the Economist, women have seen both their incomes and levels of happiness rise. But the gain goes far further. SPL can also benefit employees who aren’t parents, which can help grow and improve the business overall...

  •  Impact on recruitment

Parental leave policies will play a far bigger part in recruiting employees, who will be weighing up the benefits of a potential workplace. It’s important that SPL is well communicated and can be used as a tool to attract the best talent.

  • Skilled-up workforce

No longer do colleagues have to wait for a co-worker’s maternity leave for the chance to try out another skill or position higher up the ladder. Instead, more frequent absences offer more frequent opportunities for upskilling, resulting in a more widely and highly skilled workforce. Potential candidates for future roles can be identified specifically so they can ‘act up’ when openings arise.

  • Knowledge sharing

Parental leave, if well-managed, can build knowledge sharing across an organisation. When colleagues are away, more people get sight of tasks or projects. This creates more opportunities for better cohesion, empowerment and engagement.

  •  Links to labour market retained

Employees will not lose their skills, nor will employers lose skilled people, as both parents can keep strong links with the labour market when baby-caring responsibilities are shared. The UK’s government’s 2014 impact assessment on the introduction of SPL listed this as a key policy objective and intended effect.

  • Board diversity and performance

Finally, with women no longer being perceived as a potential higher ‘cost’ to companies than men, and with less disruption to their careers, women may at last become more represented on boards in senior management positions.

Companies may be able to fulfil both their diversity and performance aspirations. According to McKinsey’s annual report, Women Matter, companies with a strong female representation at board and top management level perform better than those without.



http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_242617.pdf - for stats about SPL round the world


https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/shared-parental-leave-impact-assessment-revised-cost-to-business - for information about impact  assessment of SPL in the UK


http://www.linklaters.com/Insights/sharedparentalleave/Pages/Index.aspx - for information about take-up in UK and factors influencing take up


http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/07/economist-explains-15 - information about Swedish SPL


http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/1/c/Shared-Parental-Leave-a-good-practice-guide-for-employers-and-employees.pdf - for information about how SPL will work in the UK – the details.


http://www.mckinsey.com/features/women_matter for information about women in top positions and performance


http://www.hrzone.com/blogs/andy-philpott/performance-through-reward-and-benefits/shared-parental-leave-opportunity-disgui - background


http://www.hrreview.co.uk/analysis/analysis-employment-law/shared-parental-leave-throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water/52484 - background

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