Women and Equalities Commission challenges the efficacy of Shared Parental Leave

By Forbes Solicitors

25 Jul 2018

Earlier this year, the government launched an innovative £1.5m 'Share the Joy' campaign to encourage more parents, via advertising, to take up the offer of Shared Parental Leave in their baby's first year.

Research from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggested the uptake for Shared Parental Leave had been as low as 2 per cent of the estimated 285,000 eligible couples since the scheme was launched in 2015, and that up to half of the general public were unaware of the right to Shared Parental Leave.

The time can be taken separately, or they can be at home together for up to 6 months. Parents can also share up to 37 weeks of Statutory Shared Parental Pay paid at £140.98 per week (or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower) which is the same as the last 33 weeks of Statutory Maternity Pay. To be eligible, they must be an employee who has worked continuously for the same employer for around 40 weeks.

In its June response, the government accepted the need for change but rejected the proposal: "The government is committed to shared parental leave. The policy is still relatively new and has had little time to bed in… We are currently assessing the impact that the publicity campaign has had on raising awareness and more activity is being planned in light of that."

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said: "Dads are calling for change and the Gender Pay Gap will not be tackled until dads get the support they need to support their children too. Our inquiry heard from a range of well-informed voices including employers, unions and fathers themselves. Many cited the poor take up of key initiatives such as Shared Parental Leave as sign they are not working. It is regrettable that more of this evidence base has not been acted upon."

If the government's 'Share the Joy' campaign is successful in raising awareness, addressing the cultural stigma of fathers taking extended periods of time away from the workplace to provide childcare, and encouraging a greater uptake of Shared Parental Leave, it is feasible this will have a positive impact on the gender pay gap.

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