Employers “still at the drawing board” on shared parental leave

Sharing parental leave

Only 15% of employers have a clear idea about how they will implement the forthcoming rights to take shared parental leave, a survey has found.

According to law firm Hogan Lovells, which surveyed more than 70 employers about their plans, many companies are still at “drawing board” stage and are confused about how the changes to the legislation will affect them.

Under the new rules, which will apply where a child is expected on or after 5 April 2015, parents will be able to share statutory maternity leave and pay for up to 12 months.

Ed Bowyer, an employment partner at Hogan Lovells, said organisations’ lack of preparedness was “probably not surprising given that the draft regulations were published only fairly recently”.

He added: “A key concern from the outset is around how resource can be managed if people take time off in less predictable chunks; with 80% of respondents indicating that internal administration and system changes are a key concern.”

Once mothers elect to share their leave, parents will have the right to ask for either a single continuous block of shared leave, or request a series of “on-off” leave periods which can be taken in chunks of as little as a week, creating a potential administrative nightmare for HR departments.

Hogan Lovells’ survey also revealed there was a lack of certainty around how pay would work under the new legislation. Of those surveyed, just under 60% currently enhance maternity and paternity pay, and 60% of this group plan to match these provisions under shared parental leave. However, almost 40% of respondents had little idea what they will implement.

Despite their lack of clarity, the respondents to Hogan Lovells’ survey broadly welcomed the aims behind introducing shared parental leave. Three-fifths (59%) perceive the new shared parental leave Regulations as an opportunity to enhance their family-friendly policies, while one-third said that it fits well with their aims of being more gender neutral about parenting.

Ben Black, founder of family-friendly policy consultancy My Family Care, said: “This research shows the dire need for companies to really evaluate what the changes mean to them.

“These are massive changes that are monumental in the way that fatherhood is perceived, officially giving men a more proactive role in bringing up a child from the very start, while giving female employees the chance to return to work earlier.”

As Personnel Today reported last week, shared parental pay could pose a risk of discrimination if employers choose not to enhance shared pay to the same level as they do for maternity pay. Of employers surveyed by XpertHR in April 2014, more than half (55%) offer maternity pay that exceeds statutory requirements.

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