Shared Parental Leave is on the rise

Academic research finds more dads getting more involved in their baby’s first year. And that’s likely to encourage more parents to follow suit.

paternity leave better mental health


More dads are using Shared Parental Leave.

New research by the University of Birmingham team monitoring the policy has confirmed uptake has leapt at least 73% since it was introduced.

And it’s likely that’s actually an underestimate. The findings are based on figures for those companies claiming back Shared Parental Pay from the taxman. Currently £148.68 Shared Parental Pay is the statutory minimum for those on Shared Parental Leave. However, parents can take 13 weeks of unpaid leave which won’t show up in the data. There will also be a number of firms who will not or who have yet to claim the benefit back.

The data demonstrates that nearly 11,000 parents used Shared Parental Leave last year.

Benefits of taking SPL

The University of Birmingham’s Equal Parenting project is run by Dr Holly Birkett and Dr Sarah Forbes. They are positive about the policy’s future. With more people using SPL they reckon others will follow suit. Dr Holly Birkett says: “The growing number of parents using Shared Parental Leave has been steadily increasing since its introduction due to the flexibility of the policy and the ability for fathers to take leave throughout the first year. Take up is likely to continue to go up as new parents increasingly know someone that has taken the policy and organisations and families become more aware of the benefits of fathers taking SPL in relation to child development, family bonding and Gender Pay Gap reporting”.

SPL is an important tool for tackling the gender pay gap which is partly down to the motherhood penalty women face after having/adopting their first child and taking maternity leave. Increased uptake of SPL and involvement of fathers in caring in the first year can have significant positive impacts on child development, child/father bonding, paternal welfare and parental mental health. By driving uptake of SPL, fathers can experience the multiple rewards of being actively involved in caring for their child in the first year and support their partners to return to work should they wish to do so.

Workplace culture

Earlier in the year the Equal Parenting project looked at the barriers to parents using SPL.

Dr Sarah Forbes said: “Our research has shown that in the past workplace culture and a lack of knowledge amongst managers and HR personnel has been stifling the growth in uptake of SPL but as organisations and parents become more aware of the policy take up increases. More can be done by organisations to allay fathers concerns that taking SPL could impact on their career. It is important that parents have a conversation about caring and SPL. Many may be surprised that their partner would like them to take more time to care for their child after birth or adoption”

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