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Shared Parental Leave - Does anyone actually take it?

In 2017, I told my manager I wanted to take Shared Parental Leave when I had my baby that year. She told me that she had no idea what I was talking about but that she would ask HR to get in touch with me as soon as they were able. 

Traditionally, it has been on Mothers to take the brunt of the childcare responsibilities. This is mirrored in the entitlement to leave. Currently, Mothers MUST take two weeks leave (four weeks for factory workers) however, they are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave after the birth or adoption of their child. Fathers, on the other hand, can take a total of two weeks paternity leave. This works perfectly well for a lot of families and it is still the choice of the vast majority of people. In situations where Mum is the higher earner, it doesn’t always make sense, which is where Shared Parental Leave filled the gap.

Introduced in 2015, Shared Parental Leave allows Mothers to return to work sooner, allowing employers to retain talent and contribute to the closing of the gender pay gap. In a time where many Dad’s want to play a much more hands-on role in the upbringing of their children, it’s a welcome step towards gender equality. And frankly, when it comes to looking after baby’s, two minds are better than one! 

Shared Parental Leave looks pretty complicated on the surface, which could explain why as little of 2% of families actually take it, but it is flexible in a lot of ways. For example, leave can be taken by both parents at the same time, or they could opt to take their leave one after the other. There is also the option to split chunks of leave and interspace them with periods of work. 

Mum still takes her compulsory two weeks maternity leave, and Dad can still opt to use his two weeks paternity leave. It’s between the family’s and their employers to agree and organise how the remaining 50 weeks of leave is taken. 

In my case, I took four weeks maternity leave prior to the birth of my son, plus two weeks after he was born. At that point, myself and my partner had 23 weeks off together muddling our way through parenthood and its challenges. It worked brilliantly for us. It’s really easy to feel resentful of the other parent, especially in those early days, of the experience they are having. Maybe feeling like they have got the ‘easier’ end of the deal. As a family, we had a lot of time to bond and build a routine that worked for us all, rather than Dad coming home at the end of a difficult working day and not knowing where he fit into the mix. It’s something I’m really glad that we choose to do but five years from its introduction, I’m still the only person I know who’s done it. 

Shared Parental Leave is something we're really passionate about at Bear HR. If you want to be sure you're giving the correct answers to your employees questions, our dedicated HR consultant would be really happy to help you.