Coalition Government to Introduce Shared Parental Leave

Helen Wells, Opportunity Now Director

Blog: Helen Wells, Director Opportunity Now

“Later this month, the coalition government is expected to announce that it will be introducing shared parental leave and a joint allowance for parents. However, these will not be implemented until October 2015.

The reason for this delay is that we are currently waiting for a formal response from the government on the consultation of these family-friendly laws.  After this, it will take significant time to establish and process the new laws, including drafting statutory guidance for employers.

The government is yet to make any formal announcement, but we understand that the proposals under discussion are anticipated to state that mothers only have to take the first fortnight of leave after giving birth for health reasons. After two weeks, either parent can claim parental leave and the joint allowance.

Once up and running, this new system will mark one of the biggest legislative changes to positively impact the progress of gender equality in the workplace.  The ability to share childcare responsibility within a family is core to women’s success in the workplace. The prize for getting this right is immense – fathers are involved in their children’s lives right from the beginning and women no longer suffer career penalties for having children. Yet, it is vital that families are supported to make their own choices over how the leave is taken - neither parent should come under pressure to only take the minimum leave.

Too often women come back from maternity leave onto a “mummy track” where a lack of flexibility in job design or the impact of unconscious bias within the workplace means that many women are held back from reaching their full potential. This equates to poor progression and being paid less than male contemporaries.  I am always urging businesses to move away from an organisational culture of “presenteeism”, towards true flexibility. The introduction of shared parental leave will lead to greater acceptance and provision of more agile working environments.

This is a complex piece of legislation and its success will depend on how effectively it is implemented.  It has true potential to enable huge strides for women at work, narrow the gender pay gap and build an economy based on the best of UK talent.”

In our latest guidance Changing Gear we provide10 impactful steps towards a diverse pipeline. Step 9 encourages ‘normalising non-linear career paths, including the support of career breaks and return to work for working mothers. This legislation will certainly support organisations in improving return to work conditions for all working parents.