Take it or (Shared Parental) Leave it
It has recently been reported that the take up of Shared Parental Leave (introduced in April 2015) has been low. Some estimates suggest that only 4% of eligible parents have made use of the new scheme, which allows parents to share the leave traditionally allowed to the mother following the birth of a child.
If the numbers are correct, perhaps the slow start is down to the introduction of a significant cultural change which may take some time before it comes to be seen as the norm.
Some commentators have suggested that a possible explanation is financial. While many employers offer enhanced maternity pay provisions (i.e. they pay more than the statutory minimum), their provision for paternity pay and shared parental pay does not offer the same enhancements. If that is the case, then those employers would be well advised to review their policies as soon as possible as, if they are more favourable to women than to men, they may run the risk of a sex discrimination claim from men.
Dealing with, and implementing shared parental leave requests from employee can be somewhat complicated. Given that a further layer of complexity is set to be added in 2018, when shared grandparental leave is introduced (subject to consultation), employers may wish to take some time now, to ensure they fully understand employees’ rights to take shared parental leave.