March 30, 2015
April 1st 2015 promises to be a big day for businesses across the UK, as changes in employment law will bring more choice for new parents regarding how much time they spend off work following the birth of a child.
From December, employers were told to start offering extended paternity leave for fathers to be, who were expecting a baby after April 1st 2015, for as long as almost a year, in a move that politicians claim would address conflict between people’s jobs and family life.
Introducing the amendments last year, Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson said the existing laws highlighted ‘cultural double standards’, as men often felt judged should they choose to spend more time caring for their children.
The new rules will see mothers given the chance to share up to 50 weeks of their maternity leave, along with 37 weeks of their pay, with their partners. The changes in the law aim to promote equality and allow fathers to be more involved in caring for their baby, in some cases allowing mothers to return to work sooner. This move may be particularly attractive for families where the mother is the breadwinner.
From April, an expectant couple will have to give their employers a detailed breakdown of how they plan to share their leave, eight weeks before it starts. Then, they will have the chance to change their proposals on two occasions during the 12-month period. While businesses will be able to insist the time off comes in a continuous block, employers will be asked to agree any proposed pattern of leave. What’s more, expectant fathers will also get the right to unpaid leave to attend as many as two antenatal appointments in the lead up to the birth.
Research carried out into the amendments last year revealed that far fewer men would choose to take up the opportunity for more time off than was originally expected, with many citing so-called ‘status anxiety’ among the reasons.
Findings published by job site Glassdoor revealed that 42 per cent of fathers would rather opt to take the minimum period of time off following the birth of their child, while only a quarter believe leave should be divided evenly. Fear of losing money and status were listed as the main factors holding fathers back from requesting more time off.
Attitudes towards parental leave do appear to be changing, though, as the poll – which used the answers from 2,000 men and women under the age of 50 – revealed younger individuals aged 18 to 24 were more in favour of equality when it comes to taking more time off, while just one in five men over 45 approved.
The plot thickens
Further damning evidence with regard the changes comes/came from the Trade Union Commission, which has claimed that two in five (equivalent to 40 per cent) new fathers will not qualify for the new rights. Analysis published by the body showed that two-fifths of working dads with a child under one would be ineligible because their partner is not in paid work.
With the government itself predicting only 5,700 men will apply for shared parental leave over the next year, it begs the question whether the new laws will have as big an impact as originally predicted.
“Regardless of the views and surveys completed as to whether fathers will want to share leave, businesses of all sizes should take measures now to positively embrace this change and ensure it does not become a burden. Sharing leave will be an entitlement to working fathers providing the eligibility criteria is fulfilled.”
Tell us what you think – will you be applying for shared parental leave? We’d love to hear your comments.