The HR profession supports shared parental leave in principle, but it is concerned that the new right is complex to administer, according to research.
Shared parental leave is “a benefit to society, but a burden on employers”. These words from an HR professional taking part in the 2015 XpertHR Benchmarking survey on shared parental leave capture HR’s mixed views on the new right.
Shared parental leave: XpertHR resources
HR welcomes shared parental leave in principle, but there are widespread concerns about the complexity of the legislation and how it will work in practice.
Shared parental leave means more admin for HR
A number of HR professionals surveyed by XpertHR expressed doubt that the Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 in their current form are the most effective way to enable both parents to share in the care of their babies or adopted children.
The wording of the legislation itself has attracted widespread criticism. A lack of plain English makes the legislation “user-unfriendly”, according to one private-sector HR professional. Another describes it as “confusing, badly-drafted legislation, which imposes an intolerable burden on employers. Why couldn’t we just enhance paternity leave and pay?”
Many respondents feel that too much of how shared parental leave will work in practice has been left up to HR to interpret. Nearly half agree or strongly agree that “the introduction of shared parental leave has created a significant administrative workload”.
Numerous respondents used the words “minefield” and “administrative nightmare” when describing their own experience of drafting shared parental leave policies. Many also bemoan the late arrival of guidance from either the Government or Acas on how to implement shared parental leave.
HR expects low take-up
Will the take-up of shared parental leave justify the amount of work involved in putting policies in place? HR has its doubts. One respondent says shared parental leave is “far too complex for both employers and employees. As a consequence, we expect little take-up.”
The new right applies to babies due or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, so the first requests for shared parental leave are likely to be just starting to come through.
So far, around 8% of organisations have received an employee request to take shared parental leave.
Unaffordable for many
Pay could prove the decisive factor in whether or not some couples take shared parental leave.
One in five organisations surveyed by XpertHR is offering enhanced shared parental pay and a similar proportion has yet to decide. But the level of shared parental leave take-up at some organisations may hinge on whether or not employers enhance shared parental pay beyond the statutory minimum.
“People are not going to give up their rights to enhanced maternity/adoption pay to take shared parental pay,” says a public-sector HR professional. “Only in a minority of cases will it be beneficial to take this leave.”
Shared parental leave consequently risks being an unaffordable option for some eligible couples. One private-sector-services HR professional says: “I imagine that shared parental leave is going to be a more viable option for high earners, who are more likely to be able to afford to take it.”
This could also create further administrative problems for employers: “Unfortunately, these are likely to be the employees for whom businesses are less likely to be able to provide short-term cover.”
HR united in supporting the aims of shared parental leave
Last week, employment relations minister Jo Swinson wrote on Personnel Today of her hope “that the outdated assumption that childcare is only an issue for mums will be firmly put to bed as shared parental leave becomes more established”.
For all its concerns about how shared parental leave will work in practice, HR strongly supports its underlying principles and purpose. Not one respondent questions whether or not it was right for the Government to introduce legislation to encourage both parents to take equal responsibility for childcare.
Many see shared parental leave as a necessary step towards societal change. One manufacturing-and-production-sector HR professional comments: “Anything that supports the family and enhances the role of both parents in the upbringing of children has to be good.”
- XpertHR Benchmarking subscribers can access and drill down into the full results of the survey and generate bespoke reports on how their organisation compares.