Most employers that offer enhanced maternity pay will also offer enhanced shared parental pay

Enhanced shared parental pay could drive up the number of fathers taking leave. REX/Burger/Phanie
Enhanced shared parental pay could drive up the number of fathers taking leave. REX/Burger/Phanie

Most organisations that offer their staff maternity pay above the statutory minimum will also enhance shared parental pay, according to data from XpertHR and Personnel Today.

Of the HR professionals whose organisations had decided to enhance shared parental pay, 75% said they would mirror the enhanced maternity pay offered to mothers. This is likely to drive a higher than anticipated take-up of shared parental leave among fathers.

Shared parental leave regulations will come into force on 1 December 2014 and mean that working couples with babies due on or after 5 April 2015 will be able to share leave and pay, provided each parent qualifies for leave and pay in their own right. Similar rights will apply for adoption.

Half (52%) of those polled during last month’s webinar, Shared parental leave: Preparing your organisation for the new right, did not know whether or not their organisation would enhance shared parental pay.

Three HR professionals in 10 (29%) said they would not enhance shared parental pay, seeing as they do not enhance maternity pay.

But of the remaining sample (those whose organisations currently offer enhanced maternity pay), 56% said they would also enhance shared parental pay.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: “These are really encouraging findings and we hope that many more employers will see the business benefits of offering enhanced parental pay.

“Shared parental leave will only be a success if fathers are not significantly financially worse off when taking it and when their employers are wholly supportive of them doing so.”

Ed Bowyer, employment partner at law firm Hogan Lovells, said: “Businesses may be waiting to get a sense of what their competitors are likely to do, but they will need to decide their own policy sooner rather than later.”

He added it was “encouraging” that most employers who enhance maternity pay and have already decided their policy are also intending to enhance shared parental pay: “This is likely to mean that take-up of shared parental leave will be greater than has been the case for additional paternity leave, where paid leave has very much been the exception rather than the rule.”

Just one in seven of those surveyed said they were “well” or “very well” prepared for the introduction of shared parental leave. Full data can be found on XpertHR Benchmarking.

Deciding the shared parental pay offering is a particular challenge. If a female colleague benefits from an enhanced maternity pay package, then employers could face discrimination claims from men seeking to receive enhanced pay during their period of shared parental leave.

Sheila Attwood, XpertHR pay and benefits editor, said: “Enhanced shared parental pay could encourage more fathers to take time off. The key for employers – particularly those that don’t yet know what level of shared parental pay they will offer – is to have their policies in order soon, so that families can plan ahead.”

The research is based on a sample size of 1,323 people, 99% of whom are HR professionals, responding to a live poll during the Personnel Today webinar on 15 July 2014, which is now available on demand.

XpertHR Benchmarking subscribers can access the full results of the survey, allowing them to look at particular industry sectors or employer size. The data shows that larger businesses are more likely to plan to enhance shared parental pay, but they are also more likely to be undecided.

Additional reporting by Michael Carty.

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