Small businesses unprepared for shared parental leave

Only 14% of small businesses fully support the introduction of shared parental leave
Only 14% of small businesses fully support the introduction of shared parental leave

Many small businesses are unprepared for shared parental leave and do not expect their staff to want to take it, according to research.

More than one-third (36%) of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) surveyed by law firm Slater and Gordon admitted they were not ready to implement the shared parental leave scheme, while a quarter of businesses do not expect any of their staff will apply for it.

In years to come, I think businesses will simply accept that both men and women could take periods away from the office after the birth of their children” – Jim Lister, Slater and Gordon

This is despite Government research suggesting that as many as two-thirds of fathers would be open to discussing parental leave with their employer.

The new research revealed that 44% of SMEs are worried about how the impact of the regulations on their business, while nearly one in five are simply “putting off” preparing for it until an employee asks for it.

The new regulations came into force in December and apply to parents of babies due on or after 5 April.

A mother will be able to end her maternity leave and take shared parental leave with her partner. Up to 50 weeks’ shared parental leave can be shared between the parents, if both are eligible.

Jim Lister, principal lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said employers need to plan ahead if it is to be a benefit, rather than a burden, to businesses overall: “I am confident that if the change is welcomed at the top of organisations and appropriate processes are put in place straight away, businesses can differentiate themselves positively in the eyes of their employees.

“Businesses should see this is as a scheme enabling women employees to return to work and I believe that before long it will be commonplace. In years to come, I think businesses will simply accept that both men and women could take periods away from the office after the birth of their children.”

Despite 42% of SMEs admitting they would be surprised if any male staff applied to take up the scheme, one in five said they had already had a leave request by an employee.

Only 14% of small businesses said they “fully supported” the new Regulations. However, a quarter said they were concerned the scheme would create problems for businesses and have little lasting effect on creating a level playing field for women.

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