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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced that leading employers including PWC, Shell and Deloitte will be offering enhanced paternity packages to all their employees who take the new Shared Parental Leave from April 2015.
The announcement follows earlier news that the Civil Service will offer equal pay to dads and mums taking SPL. SPL allows women and men to share the year after their baby is born and applies to children born or adopted after 5 April 2015.
The key points of SPL, which aims to open up parents’ options in the first year after their baby is born, are:
– Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance
– If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child’s father, will be able to opt for SPL instead of Maternity Leave. If they both meet the qualifying requirements and both qualify, they will need to decide how they divide their total SPL and pay entitlement between them
– Paid paternity leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers and a mother’s or adopter’s partners
– Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to SPL and pay
– Intended parents in surrogacy who meet certain criteria will be eligible for statutory adoption leave and pay and SPL and pay.
Nick Clegg said: “I’m delighted that Deloitte, PWC and Shell are taking positive steps in modernising the workplace by providing flexible working arrangements for hardworking parents.
“It is bizarre that even in the 21st century, hundreds and thousands of employees are still restricted by Edwardian rules when it comes to juggling their work and family lives.
“We need a modern Britain that works for modern families, not against them. I’ve fought hard in government to bring about that change whether it’s through the introduction of flexible working, free childcare, shared parental leave or equalising paternity pay so that men can spend more time with their newborn child without being penalised financially.
“So, I’m calling on employers to set an example when it comes to offering flexible working arrangements so that working parents are empowered to make their own decisions in their own time. We know this boosts productivity, loyalty and retention of staff in the workplace so this is not just about common sense it makes financial sense too.”
The announcement came as a Mumsnet survey found two thirds of working dads had had to take annual leave after the birth of their children so they could help out at home.
Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, welcomed the announcement. She said: “We welcome the news that some companies are leading the way by offering enhanced paternity packages to encourage take-up of Shared Parental Leave. Our annual survey showed that there is considerable interest in SPL. Some 44% of mums said they would consider sharing leave with their partner. For the new legislation to work encouragement will have to be given to dads to take it, not just financially but through making it socially acceptable to do so. This will mean the promotion of positive role models, particularly senior leaders who make the decision to share care, and making information on how SPL policies work easily accessible. It is only through encouraging a more equal sharing of home responsibilities that there will be greater workplace equality.”
Working Families CEO Sarah Jackson added: “Shared Parental Leave provides a real opportunity for employers to demonstrate their support for parents, and their commitment to equality between men and women within the wider context of a supportive work-life culture.”
She said awarness of the new leave was higher than with Additional Paternity Leave and that younger men were keen to be more involved in childcare. Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey shows as many as 44% of mums said they would consider sharing their maternity leave with their partner.
Jackson continued: “Employers should seriously consider matching contractually enhanced pay and benefits during SPL to those currently available to women employees who are on maternity leave. The potential gains, from an engagement point of view, are substantial, and the marginal costs relatively low – for larger employers, the equivalent of two or three extra maternity leavers per hundred each year.
“But we realise that at present, many employers either do not feel ready to match their maternity package, or offer only statutory leave and pay. Still they are committed to creating inclusive workplaces which support fathers. These employers should concentrate on communications to promote SPL as a new statutory right which the organisation welcomes and which it encourages all employees who are expecting or planning children to consider for their family.
“SPL is really a chance for employers to benefit from increased engagement and commitment, by going with the grain of employees’ family lives and aspirations as new parents. We are seeing the beginning of a quiet revolution in how fathers and mothers share work and care.”